Adult attachment, bulimia nervosa and relationship satisfaction
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Research interest of the role that childhood anxiety plays in the predisposition of eating disorder pathology has facilitated investigation into the antecendents of this anxiety within the framework of Bowlby's (1969, 1973, 1980) attachment theory and its inherent concept of internal working models. Parallel findings within the literature on Bulimia Nervosa and insecure attachment, in terms of difficulties with affect regulation and autonomy focused behaviour, lead to the hypothesis that anxiety within close adult relationships will be positively related to bulimia. Research to date investigating attachment processes in eating disordered samples has typically focused on attachment in relation to parent-child relationships, overlooking the impact adult love relationships has on attachment. The present study investigates the links between adult attachment styles within close relationships, bulimia, dietary restraint, and relationship satisfaction. 120 female participants aged between 18 to 45 years were recruited from the University of Canterbury campus, and administered three to four brief questionnaires pertaining to the study. Results found that women with bulimia who were currently involved in romantic relationships were significantly more anxiously attached, more likely to engage in dieting behaviour and report low levels of satisfaction within their relationships. Multiple regression analyses further supported the significant independent contributions that attachment, dieting and relationship satisfaction constructs had on bulimia. Furthermore, a mediational model was supported, whereby securely attached women were more satisfied with their relationships, which in turn was related to lower levels of bulimia. The effect that secure attachment had on bulimia was not direct, but a function of relationship satisfaction within adult love relationships. The findings of this study extend results from previous research concerning anxious attachment and bulimia, into the realm of adult love relationships. Further research investigation of attachment styles within adult love relationships, in terms of specific cognitive processing and types of symptom expression within the eating disordered population, represents a productive avenue for future research.