Monday, March 30, 2009

Don't Blame Mom

I really liked reading Thin Is the New Happy last year. It was funny, well written, and honest about Valerie Frankel's struggle with dieting. But there was one thing that bothered me about it. The book opened with a passage describing her mother marching her to a scale and shaming her for gaining weight. The whole blame-the-mother's behavior a bit Freudian for the legitimate and pervasive problems that are presented by eating disorders. And today, Kate Harding presents a new study that hopes to put the motherhood blame for eating disorders to rest, once and for all.

It seems that a new study from the UK shows that eating disorders, like many other mental illnesses, are tied to genetics. They even allude to a potential screening process that can be put into place for parents and teachers to watch those prone to eating disorders more carefully, and to counteract dangerous behaviors before they become an ingrained part of a girl's behavior.

The study's authors say that eating disorders are something a child can be predisposed to, much like ADHD, dyslexia, or depression. So rather than blaming mothers for being too hard on their children, we can note that these behaviors likely happen because the mothers are genetically predisposed to the disorders themselves. It just goes to show that the more we learn about how these things work, the easier it can be to identify the causes and start the path to prevention.

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