Consequences of child emotional abuse, emotional neglect and exposure to intimate partner violence for eating disorders: a systematic critical review

Abstract Background Child maltreatment and eating disorders are significant public health problems. Yet, to date, research has focused on the role of child physical and sexual abuse in eating-related pathology. This is despite the fact that globally, exposure to emotional abuse, emotional neglect and intimate partner violence are the three of the most common forms of child maltreatment. The objective of the present study is to systematically identify and critically review the literature examining the association between child emotional abuse (EA), emotional neglect (EN), and exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) and adult eating-disordered behavior and eating disorders. Methods A systematic search was conducted of five electronic databases: Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and ERIC up to October 2015 to identify original research studies that investigated the association between EA, EN and children’s exposure to IPV, with adult eating disorders or eating-disordered behavior using a quantitative research design. Database searches were complemented with forward and backward citation chaining. Studies were critically appraised using the Quality in Prognosis Studies (QUIPS) tool. Results A total of 5556 publications were screened for this review resulting in twenty-three articles included in the present synthesis. These studies focused predominantly on EA and EN, with a minority examining the role of child exposure to IPV in adult eating-related pathology. Prevalence of EA and EN ranged from 21.0% to 66.0%, respectively. No prevalence information was provided in relation to child exposure to IPV. Samples included predominantly White women. The methodological quality of the available literature is generally low. Currently, the available literature precludes the possibility of determining the extent to which EA, EN or child exposure to IPV have independent explanatory influence in adult eating-related pathology above what has been identified for physical and sexual abuse. Conclusions While a large proportion of adults with eating disorders or eating-disordered behavior report EA, EN, or child exposure to IPV , there is a paucity of high-quality evidence about these relationships.
BMC Psychology. 2017 Sep 22;5(1):33