Exploring family dynamics, eating attitudes and behaviors : a qualitative analysis of female children of Holocaust survivors / by Karin Schwartz.
This study explored and interpreted specific family dynamics, eating attitudes and behaviors of Holocaust survivors' female offspring. Ten female children of Holocaust survivors, residents of Los Angeles or the Bay Area, 25 and 55 years of age, with one (or more) biological parent(s) who had survived the Holocaust in hiding or in concentration/labor camps, participated in qualitative, in-depth interviews and were administered the Eating Disorder Inventory-II. The study explored the following themes from the literature on the transgenerational impact of the Holocaust and transgenerational themes of those with eating disorders: high achievement/perfectionism; low self esteem; inability to express anger outwardly; separation-individuation issues/lacking autonomy; and feeling great responsibility to protect parents from pain and emotional turmoil. While eight participants' educational attainment and occupations were their choice, several married young and, thus, terminated their educational goals. Many reported perfectionistic tendencies, their parents' strong emphasis on education and family connectedness, tremendous parental investment in assuring their children achieved. All ten reported that their parents' perceived anxieties affected their self esteem; difficulty expressing negative emotions, specifically anger; separating/individuating from families of origin; and strong needs to protect survivor parent(s) from reexperiencing pain or hostility. They characterized their parents as overprotective, controlling, and their family environments as marked by constant worry/fear. Many had uninvolved or minimally present fathers and over-involved, intrusive mothers. Several reported improvements in their self esteem when they left their parents' homes or learned to accept parents' limitations. Their parents often viewed them as extensions of themselves, not as individuals. Many feared parents' responses and their inability to tolerate negative emotions, and described themselves as “hyper-sensitive” to others' suffering. EDI-2 results suggested that none met Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa criteria, but six met diagnostic criteria for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Many reported bingeing and inappropriate compensatory behaviors (self induced vomiting, laxative abuse, excessive exercise) as youngsters. Possible links among the study's major themes, ideas for future research, limitations of the study, and implications of findings for clinicians working with children of Holocaust survivors were discussed.
Record last modified: 2018-04-24 16:01:00
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