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Eating disordered women's descriptions of issues leading to conflict and the communication strategies used to manage conflict in their family and romantic relationships: A qualitative study

Sheri Lynn Blok, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

The numbers of young women and girls who struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and bulimarexia are on the rise in the United States. Estimates reveal that as many as fifteen to twenty percent of females will at one time or another develop one, if not more of these disorders. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between the development and maintenance of eating disorders and the communication strategies utilized by eating-disordered women and their family members and romantic partners to manage conflict in their relationships. ^ In-depth interviews were conducted with eleven women who have, or have had, an eating disorder. The women completed a demographic information form, which asked for information such as current age, number of years with the particular disorder, a description of the make-up of the family of origin, whether or not they were involved in a romantic relationship. Then four research questions, which explored their definitions of conflict, issues that lead to conflict, and the communication strategies used to manage conflict were addressed. A thematic analysis was conducted to identify common themes that emerged from the interview data. ^ The results of the study revealed that these women defined conflict as an emotional experience that is both internal and external in nature. In addition, as consistent with prior research, the majority of anorexic women reported very little overt conflict expressed in their families of origin. While the majority of the bulimic and bulimarexic women reported significantly more expressed, mostly chaotic, conflict in their families, with very little resolution. Most of the women reported never learning appropriate conflict management skills from their own parents, leaving them unsure how to handle conflict in their own romantic relationships. Consequentially, most of these women indicated they avoid engaging in conflict with family members and romantic partners whenever possible. The results of this study should prove beneficial to communication scholars as it complements what is known about conflict management styles, in general. Furthermore, the results of this study will enable eating-disordered women, their family members, and romantic partners to better understand the role that communication plays in their daily triumphs and struggles, both within themselves and with each other. ^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Blok, Sheri Lynn, "Eating disordered women's descriptions of issues leading to conflict and the communication strategies used to manage conflict in their family and romantic relationships: A qualitative study" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3045509.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3045509

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