Disordered eating in college women: associations with the mother–daughter relationship and family weight-related conversations

Hannah Posluszny, Virginia Quick, John Worobey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Extensive work in the field has found multiple risk factors of disordered eating among women; however, there is limited research regarding the associations of maternal influence and family weight-related conversations during childhood with eating disorder psychopathology later in adulthood. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore how the mother–daughter relationship and family weight-related conversations may influence the development of disordered eating in college-aged women. Methods: A diverse sample of 551 college-aged women completed an online survey with instruments that assessed disordered eating risk (dependent variable) with the following independent variables: aspects of the mother–daughter relationship (maternal regard and responsibility) and family weight-related conversations (emphasis on maternal weight, appearance weight control, and parent weight talk). Mediation analysis was performed using hierarchical regression analyses to examine the influence of maternal factors in combination with family weight-related conversations with disordered eating risk. Results: Using hierarchical regression analyses, aspects of the mother–daughter relationship were significantly associated with risk of disordered eating. However, this significant relationship was diminished in the presence of family weight-related conversations. Furthermore, a test of the mediation suggests that family weight-related conversations may act as a pathway for influencing perceived maternal factors in the development of disordered eating. Conclusions: Findings illustrate the important role mothers may have in shaping their daughters eating attitudes and behaviors. Future disordered eating prevention programs and interventions may consider developing strategies in educating parents on conversations regarding weight. Level of evidence: Descriptive cross-sectional study, Level V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEating and Weight Disorders
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Appearance weight control
  • College students
  • Daughters
  • Disordered eating
  • Family weight-related conversations
  • Maternal weight
  • Mothers


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