Are parents to blame for eating disorders?

It is unclear why eating disorders develop in some people but not others. However, researchers agree that it is probably a combination of genetic, biological, psychological and social factors, rather than any one cause.

There is no evidence that parents are responsible for causing eating disorders.

There are genetic and familial factors that increase the risk of someone developing an eating disorder – for example, where there is a family history of eating disorders, family dieting and/or negative comments from family members about eating, appearance and/or weight.

Families will generally be feeling overwhelmed, guilty, distressed, depressed, exhausted, exasperated, frustrated and disappointed that they can’t ‘fix’ things. In most cases, parents are an important part of the recovery process and health practitioners need to consider supporting families, partners and carers as an important part of their role.