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Parental involvement helpful in child's recovery from eating disorder: study

A new study suggests parents and caregivers should become involved in the recovery process of their child's eating disorder.

That from a researcher at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., who examined the role parents play in childhood eating disorders.

Parents are often afraid of intervening says associate professor and clinical psychologist Adèle Lafrance.

The two year study was conducted across seven sites in Canada. More than 100 parents and caregivers were questioned about their involvement with their child's eating disorders.

Parents were asked about how afraid they were to get involved in their child's treatment.

Lafrance says she found the more a parent was afraid of getting involved, the more they blamed themselves for a child's eating disorder.

She calls the self-blame piece complex, adding that when a child has an eating disorder,  chances are high that parents are afraid of how they'll handle the situation and then blame themselves in some way.

"I would say to a parent: If you blame yourself, ask for support because that self-blame is actually going to make it so that it's harder for you to support your loved one in a good way."

Parents do not cause eating disorders. Lafrance says self-blame and fear from a parent or caregiver will hurt a child's recovery process.

In fact, the study found any parental involvement usually leads to better outcomes for children who suffer from eating disorders. That's even true when the way a parent acts seem counter-productive Lafrance says.

Parents are encouraged to become more involved in the recovery process, no matter how old their child is.

Lafrance says she would like to see her field move away from the notion that people become independent at the age of 18.

"What the research is suggesting is that whether a child is 16 or 46 there is such value in having their parents or their caregivers or their loved ones involved in the treatment process."