Bulimia: the bulimic daughter's perception of the mother-daughter relationship

dc.contributor.authorFrenkel, Louise Charlene
dc.descriptionA dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, Clinical Psychology. Johannesburg December 1989en_ZA
dc.description.abstractBulimia, the syndrome characterised by a pattern of episodic binge eating followed by attempts to purge the food by vomiting or laxative abuse, was only identified as a distinct syndrome in the late 1970s. The first studies to record these symptoms focused on bulimia as an associated feature or subtype of anorexia nervosa. In subsequent research however, it became evident that binge-eating and purging behaviour also occurs in normal weight people. It is this group of 'normal weight bulimics' who are the focus of this study. The present study focuses on the mother-daughter relationship, hypothesizing that this rulncionship will be of some significance in the etiology and maintenance of the syndrome (this has been shown to be the case in anorexia nervosa) . There has been very little research in this area and available information is based on clinical material from individual case studies. Two groups of women were selected, a bulimic and a non-bulimic group, and their perceptions of their mothers compared. The subjects were given a short demographic questionnaire, a projective test (the Thematic Apperception Test) which is sensitive to issues pertaining to the mother-daughter relationship, and an open ended question eliciting a description of their mothers. The data was analysed by two independent clinicians, using Beliak's (1986) method, and significant trends in the mother-daughter relationship were identified. The findings confirmed the significance of the mother-daughter relationship. The results were divided into two categories: the daughter's perceptions of her mother, and the daughter's feelings and responses. The major findings were, firstly, that the bulimic daughters feel emotionally deprived, and secondly, that the bulimic daughters feel extremely angry with their mothers but are afraid of expressing this anger directly. Instead they tend to become passive, and to withdraw into revengeful fantasies or to resort to passive aggressive behaviour. The present research brings to light a number of issues related to the mother-daughter relationship and the relationships in the 'bulimic family' as a whole, which require further investigation. "The woman is consoling the girl. But the girl feels the need to be alone. She can't accept love from others readily because she is scared. Scared that one day it will be removed, taken away or that it will turn to hate. She feels alone. Deep inside there is a need for consolation but she hides this insecurity with an invisible shield." (Bulimic subject's response to one of the TAT cards). "She knew what she had to do before it was too late, and she rose up with difficulty and walked across the thick carpet to the bathroom, and flicked on the light. The tiled floor was cold under her bare feet. She shivered slightly and turned to face the mirror above the sink as she pulled back her long hair and fastened it with a rubber band. Then she turned on the faucet, full force, and filled a glass of water. She left the water running out of habit, though this time it wasn't necessary since no one was around to hear the sounds from the bathroom. When she had finished the glass of water she lifted the lid of the toilet and knelt down before it, her face within the bowl. She pushed her finger down on the back of her tongue in the exact right spot and the brownish liquid gushed out of her." (Chernin, 1986, p.30)en_ZA
dc.subject.lcshMothers and daughters
dc.titleBulimia: the bulimic daughter's perception of the mother-daughter relationshipen_ZA
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