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01-08-2014 | Original Paper | Uitgave 6/2014

Journal of Child and Family Studies 6/2014

Connections Between Marital Conflict and Adolescent Girls’ Disordered Eating: Parent–Adolescent Relationship Quality as a Mediator

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 6/2014
Elizabeth H. Blodgett Salafia, Mallary K. Schaefer, Emily C. Haugen


The family system has frequently been suggested to play an important role in adolescents’ health. Particularly, conflict within the marital dyad has been associated with maladjustment among adolescents, although studies have rarely focused on disordered eating as a possible negative outcome. In this study, we examined the direct association between marital conflict and disordered eating among 123 adolescent girls in middle school and high school. We also tested the mediating role of adolescents’ positive relationship quality with their mothers and fathers (e.g., high warmth and low control) in this relation. For our hypothesized direct effects and mediation models, we formed latent constructs with cross-sectional data collected from girls’ self-report questionnaires and applied bootstrapping procedures. We found that marital conflict was both directly and indirectly, via poor mother– and father–adolescent relationship quality, associated with girls’ disordered eating. This suggests that the mother–father, mother–adolescent, and father–adolescent family subsystems can play a part in influencing girls’ eating patterns. Clearly, family subsystems have significant roles in promoting the health of young, female adolescents. Future research and treatment efforts for girls exhibiting disordered eating should aim to include family members and address the roles of different family subsystems.

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