Object representations, recollections of parental rearing style and bulimic symptomatology in female bulimic patients

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Herbert M. Dandes - Committee Chair


The literature regarding bulimia suggests that both the way in which parenting style is recalled and object representation level attained contributes to variation in bulimic symptomatology displayed by bulimic women. However, no study to date has empirically investigated this relationship. This study suggested that a relationship exists between the variables of recollected parental rearing style, object representation level and bulimic symptomatology within a bulimic sample. In exploring this relationship, it is critical to differentiate between obese bulimics and nonobese bulimics, for the relationship among the variables are different for each of these subgroups of bulimic women.It was hypothesized that bulimic participants would report recollected parenting style as more overprotective, more rejecting and less caring than a comparison group of nonbulimic women. Additionally, it was speculated that bulimic participants would display a lower level of object representation than the nonbulimic comparison group. It was also hypothesized that level of object representation would be predicted from degree of bulimic symptom severity and degree of recollected parental caring, rejection and overprotection.The data were analyzed using a chi-square analysis and MANOVA to determine group differences. Results suggested that bulimic women demonstrated a significantly greater proportion of a lower object representations level and recalled their parents as being significantly more overprotective, rejecting and less warm than the nonbulimic comparison group. Furthermore, upon determining that obese bulimics were significantly different in both age and the level of object representation displayed in comparison to their nonobese counterparts, these groups were separated in order to examine the relationship of interest in this study. Through a series of correlational and regression analyses it was found that previously documented research exploring the nature of the relationship between recalled parenting style, object representation level and bulimic symptomatology appeared to be applicable to nonobese bulimic individuals. However, further research needs to be conducted to establish the exact nature of this relationship for obese bulimic women. An attempt was made to explain differences found in the relationship of interest between obese and nonobese bulimic individuals from a developmental object relations perspective.


Education, Guidance and Counseling

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