Perceived Parental Psychological Control and Eating-Disordered Symptoms: Maladaptive Perfectionism as a Possible Intervening Variable

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Recent developmental theorizing conceptualizes perfectionism as a mediator of the relation between intrusive parenting and psychopathology. Research addressing this hypothesis in relation to eating disorders (EDs), however, is lacking. This case-control study (a) examined mean-level differences between ED patients and normal controls in psychologically controlling parenting and perfectionism and (b) addressed the intervening role of perfectionism in associations between psychological control and ED symptoms, distinguishing between maladaptive and relatively more adaptive types of perfectionism. Hypotheses were examined in a sample of normal controls (N = 85) and a sample of ED patients (N = 60). Findings indicate that ED patients and bulimics in particular show elevated levels of paternal (but not maternal) psychological control and elevated levels of maladaptive perfectionism compared with normal controls. Mediation analyses show that maladaptive perfectionism is a significant intervening variable between parental psychological control and ED symptoms. Directions for future research on controlling parenting, perfectionism, and ED are outlined.

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