Young adult females whose mothers frequently engaged in "family expressed emotion" tended to have poorer social and relationship skills, researchers said. (Agencies)
'Family expressed emotion' was defined by researchers as "an extraordinarily harmful pattern of criticism, over-involvement, excessive attention, and emotional reactivity that is usually communicated by parents toward their children."
The study also found that these poor social and relationship skills were related to the daughters' higher levels of psychological distress and disordered eating attitudes.
Disordered eating attitudes involve "body dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight control beliefs and practice, researchers said.
Although prevalent in US women, women with these attitudes do not always have eating disorders, according to the study's lead author, Analisa Arroyo, assistant professor of communication at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Although family dynamics, such as conflict and control, can affect children's emotional and social well-being, the authors found that neither predicted daughters' social incompetence.
Instead, according to Arroyo, it was the mother's "hyper-involved and overtly critical" pattern of expressed emotion that was directly related to decrease in social competence and indirectly linked to psychological distress and disordered eating attitudes.
To evaluate the role of family interactions on young women's eating attitudes and body image, Arroyo and her co-author, Chris Segrin, professor and head of the communication department at the University of Arizona, surveyed university students and their families.
They collected data from 286 family triads, each consisting of a mother, young adult daughter (average age, 21 years), and adult sibling. Each family member individually received an online questionnaire.
Both mothers and daughters rated the daughters' social skills, and daughters rated their ability to form positive relations with others, which together evaluated social competence.
Daughters rated their levels of depression, self-esteem, and loneliness, as a measure of psychological distress. To help measure disordered eating attitudes, daughters rated their self-perceptions of body shape, participation in dieting, awareness of food content, and food preoccupation.
The study was published in National Communication Association's journal Communication Monographs.
Young adult females whose mothers frequently engaged in "family expressed emotion" tended to have poorer social and relationship skills, researchers said.