Parents’ illness representations of their child with anorexia nervosa: A qualitative systematic review using the common sense model

Doriana Marchetti, Vilas Sawrikar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Objective
Research indicates that parents experience distress while caring for a child with anorexia nervosa. Applying the Common Sense Model of Self-Regulation (CSM), a framework to describe responses to illness may help to understand the antecedents of parental distress, which could inform how to support parents in treatment. The aim of this systematic review was to synthesize outcomes from qualitative research in relation to parents' experiences of caring for a child with anorexia nervosa using the CSM.

Method
Systematic search of four electronic databases (psychINFO, MEDLINE, EMBASE, ProQuest Dissertation, and Theses Database) alongside a two-way screening process was used to identify eligible studies. Qualitative themes were synthesized using a “best fit” framework analysis and reported according to CSM dimensions of cognitive and emotional illness representations.

Results
A total of 32 studies published between 1970 and 2023 were eligible for inclusion for review. Parents perceived their child's anorexia nervosa as a major health threat observable by illness representations that anorexia nervosa was uncontrollable, incomprehensible, chronic, and associated with negative consequences. The themes also suggested parents take responsibility for causing anorexia nervosa. These illness representations were linked with emotional representations of fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, loneliness, and depression.

Conclusions
The findings provide evidence of the utility of using the CSM to understand the antecedents of parents' distress and negative impacts of caring for a child with anorexia nervosa. Recommendations for future research and clinical practice are discussed emphasizing the need to understand parents' perceptions of their child's illness to putatively maximize treatment benefits for families.

Public Significance
This review emphasizes the salience of understanding parents distress while caring for a child with anorexia nervosa. The findings present opportunities to best support parents in treatment, with a focus on addressing their cognitive and emotional representations of their child's illness. A multicomponent treatment regimen may be required to support parents if they present with illness representations that negatively affect their well-being and ability to cope with distress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Early online date2 Nov 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • common-sense model
  • illness perception
  • parental mental health
  • anorexia nervosa
  • parents/carers

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