Childhood emotional maltreatment and disordered eating in a general adolescent population. Does emotion regulation play a mediating role?
Mills, Pamela Ann
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Objectives: To determine if emotion regulation mediates the link between emotional maltreatment and disordered eating behaviour in a community sample of adolescents. Design and method: Participants were 222 secondary school pupils (aged 14-18 years) from a state high school in a rural area in Scotland. Standardised questionnaire measures were used to gather data on history of emotional abuse and neglect using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), emotion regulation strategies using the Regulation of Emotions Questionnaire (REQ) and subclinical disordered eating behaviour using the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) and the Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (DEBQ). Pearson correlation and multiple mediation analyses were conducted to determine significant relationships and to identify whether dysfunctional emotion regulation was a mediator of the relationship between emotional maltreatment and disordered eating behaviour. Results: Multiple mediation analyses found both emotional abuse and emotional neglect to have a significant direct relationship with EAT-26 total score and DEBQ restraint scores - mediated by internal dysfunctional emotion regulation (with external dysfunctional emotion regulation also being a significant mediator in the analysis with emotional neglect and EAT-26 total). The direct relationship between emotional abuse/neglect and DEBQ emotional eating scores was non-significant, although a specific indirect effect through internal dysfunctional emotion regulation was observed. Conclusions: To the best of the author‟s knowledge, this is the first study which has looked at history of emotional maltreatment and disordered eating behaviour focussing on the influence of emotion regulation in particular. Results were indicative of significant indirect effects between emotional abuse and neglect and all measures of disordered eating through internal dysfunctional emotion regulation. Findings suggest the role of emotion regulation warrants further study in the research on childhood maltreatment and disordered eating behaviour.