Family environment is a significant factor in the development of eating disorders in young-adult females. Clinical experience, research and theories about eating disorders indicate that constrictive implicit process rules within a family are correlated with eating-disordered families. This study identified implicit family process rules that are unique to eating-disordered families and how well these rules predict membership in eating-disordered and non-eating-disordered families. One hundred and two families (51 eating-disordered and 51 comparison families) participated in the study. Mothers, fathers, young-adult female children, and siblings in each family completed the Family Implicit Rules Profile (FIRP). The design included cluster analysis of all 85 rules to determine which implicit rules clustered in eating-disordered families, and discriminant analysis to determine how well the rules from the cluster analysis predicted membership in the groups of eating-disordered vs. control families. Results indicated that two clusters emerged related to eating-disordered families. The first included rules regarding inappropriate protection of parents (ex. "Protect your parent even if they do not deserve it"), not upsetting or inconveniencing parents, the triangulation of a child (eg.. "Listen to a parent when they complain about the other parent"), avoiding pain at any cost, and blaming self for others' anger. Cluster 2 included rules about appearances (eg,. "Do whatever you have to do to look good to others") and rules about keeping family matters private. Discriminant analysis showed that these 15 implicit family rules predicted membership in either the eating-disordered or the non-eating-disordered family groups with 93% accuracy. Implications for family therapy are discussed.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





adolescent, anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders, EDNOS, family, implicit family rules, parentification, unspoken family rules