Emotional maltreatment and disordered eating in adolescents: Testing the mediating role of emotion regulation

Pamela Mills, Emily Newman, Jill Cossar, George Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study aimed to determine if emotion regulation mediates the relationship between emotional maltreatment and disordered eating behavior in adolescents. Participants were 222 secondary school pupils (aged 14–18 years) from a state high school in the UK. Standardized questionnaire measures were used to gather self-report data on emotional abuse and emotional neglect, functional and dysfunctional emotion regulation strategies and disordered eating behavior. Results showed that disordered eating was associated with emotional abuse, dysfunctional emotion regulation and being female. Multiple mediation analysis found an indirect relationship between emotional abuse and disordered eating through dysfunctional emotion regulation. Interestingly, emotional neglect predicted lower levels of functional emotion regulation. The findings support previous research showing emotion regulation to mediate the relationship between childhood abuse and disordered eating in adults and a differential effect of abuse and neglect on emotion regulation. Longitudinal studies are required to confirm the direction of relationships; however these data suggest that dysfunctional emotion regulation is a significant variable in the development of disordered eating and may be a useful target for intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-166
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date14 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • disordered eating
  • emotional maltreatment
  • emotional abuse
  • emotional neglect
  • emotion regulation
  • adolescents


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