The role of the perception of family environment in relation to body dissatisfaction, disordered eating and difficulties in close relationships

  • Sónia GonçalvesEmail author
  • Célia Moreira
  • Mónica Gonçalves
  • Ana Isabel Vieira
  • Bárbara César Machado
Original Article



Invalidating childhood environments have been characterised as those in which caregivers do not validate a child’s personal experiences and the communication of emotions is considered inappropriate, being either ignored or punished. The current study assessed the relationships among invalidating childhood environments, body dissatisfaction, disordered eating and difficulties in close relationships in a sample of college students.


In this study, 362 non-clinical participants with ages ranging from 17 to 25 years (M = 20.02, SD = 1.51) completed self-report measures.


Difficulties in close relationships, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating were significantly higher in invalidating families than in validating families. Invalidating childhood environments were associated with higher body dissatisfaction and disordered eating, and both associations were mediated by difficulties in close relationships. Finally, body dissatisfaction mediates the effects of BMI and difficulties in close relationships on eating disorder symptoms.


Perceived experiences of invalidation in childhood may be associated with eating disorder symptomatology. In addition, difficulties in close relationships during adulthood possibly contribute to the emergence of eating disorder symptoms.

Level of Evidence

Level V, descriptive study.


Invalidating childhood environments Disordered eating Body dissatisfaction Difficulties in close relationships 




Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychotherapy and Psychopathology Research Unit, CIPsi, School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.CEDH, Centre for Studies in Human Development, Faculty of Education and PsychologyCatholic University of PortugalPortoPortugal

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