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Role of the Family

AED Issues New Position Paper on The Role of the Family in Eating Disorders

DEERFIELD, IL, September 2009 - The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), a global professional association committed to leadership in eating disorders research, education, treatment and prevention, is issuing a Position Paper on The Role of Family in Eating Disorders that outlines research refuting the common misconception that families are a primary cause of anorexia or bulimia nervosa, and describes the important role of families in treatment and recovery. The paper is available here.

The AED stands firmly against any model of eating disorders in which family influences are seen as the primary cause of eating disorders, condemns statements that blame families for their child’s illness, and recommends that families be included in the treatment of younger patients, unless this is clearly ill advised on clinical grounds.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are serious mental and behavioral disorders that pose significant danger to the health and well-being of sufferers.  The causes of these conditions are complex.  The Position Paper cites research that has been recently conducted that clearly refutes the notion that families are a primary cause of eating disorders, though particular styles of family behavior may increase risk for psychopathology in general, including eating disorders. 

Work conducted at the Maudsley Hospital in London has demonstrated that families can be an important resource for younger patients’ suffering from Anorexia when they are included in the therapeutic work.   There has been less research on family treatment for Bulimia, but findings thus far indicate that family-based treatment methods may hold promise for this patient group as well.
“It is important to help and support sufferers and engage their families in the recovery process, whenever it is appropriate,” said AED President Susan Paxton, FAED.  “Hopefully, our position will ease the burden of guilt and shame on families and let them see what a resource they can be in their family member’s journey of recovery.”

The Academy for Eating Disorders is an international, trans-disciplinary professional organization with more than 1,400 members worldwide. AED provides education, training and a forum for collaboration and professional dialogue. Visit for more information on AED, eating disorders, and the role of families in the recovery process.