Background: To evaluate if body image disturbance and alexithymia, two major clinical features of eating disorders (ED), are predicted by an altered parental bonding. Sampling and Methods: 64 female ED outpatients and 68 female healthy controls were assessed by means of the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI), the Body Uneasiness Test (BUT), and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20). Pearson’s correlations and multiple stepwise regression analysis were applied to explore the contribution of PBI factors on BUT and TAS scores. Results: BUT weight phobia, body image concerns, avoidance, depersonalization, Global Severity Index and positive symptom total were predicted by low parental care, while compulsive self-monitoring was predicted by parental overprotection. TAS total score and difficulty in describing feelings were predicted by low maternal care. Conclusions: Body image disturbance in ED may be conceptualized as a deficit in self-development, resulting from failures in parent-child interactions which impaired the ability to distinguish bodily needs from emotional experiences.

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