Attachment theory explains the bond or tie between a child and an attachment figure, a parent or guardian. Nowadays it is starting to become obvious that children with insecure attachment styles are prone to eating disorders more so than children with secure attachments.

When children interact with parents in the first 5-7 years of life some children feel that their parents are a reliable source of comfort and security. These children most likely will develop secure attachment style and become well-adjusted adults.

Other children may feel that their parents (or caregivers) are not that reliable and don’t give them the sense of security, support and comfort when it’s needed. Some parents may even reject their children in terms of providing emotional comfort. These children probably will develop an insecure attachment style and will compensate for their emotional discomfort with food, alcohol and/or drugs when they grow up.

Now we know that a lot of eating disorder sufferers turn to their disorder to find security, comfort and emotional stability. Food is something that is always readily available and will bring temporary emotional comfort to a sufferer: so it seems an easy way out of their emotional problems.

There is no blame on the parents of course because eating disorders are complex and many factors have to come together for a person to develop the disorder. But what we do know now is that a cold parental attitude, very high expectations placed on a child, parental abuse or rejection are all factors that can force a child to turn to an eating disorder.

As a rule, most eating disorders sufferers (nearly all) have insecure attachment styles: anxious and avoidant styles. Because attachment style is developed in the first years of life, it is understandable that a predisposition to an eating disorder is built earlier in life (probably in the first 5-7 years of life) that previously realised.

A childs attitude toward their parents (caregivers) is also directly connected to their attitude of themself, their body and self-esteem, their thoughts about the world and the people around them. It is also connected to their perception of safety (about the world being a safe place or not). All these factors as we now know influence the development of eating disorders in young children and teenagers.

To conclude, attachment style is something we should look at when talking about the prevention of eating disorders. We need to educate parents regarding how they can make their children feel more secure and comfortable inside their own self. Developing a secure attachment style in children will help prevent eating disorders in many young people.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Irina Webster MD is a Director of Women Health Issues Program. She is an author and a public speaker. To read more about neuroplasticity for eating disorders go to