University of Limerick
Fitzgerald_2015_Feeling.pdf (4.24 MB)

Feeling our feedings: mindfulness and body dissatisfaction in the relationship between attachment style and disordered eating in an adult population

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posted on 2023-02-20, 12:41 authored by Noelle Nicola Fitzgerald
Aims: Attachment insecurity has been associated with disordered eating behaviours (DEBs; e.g., restrained eating, emotional eating and uncontrolled eating). There is a growing prevalence of such problematic behaviours in our society, yet DEBs have remained poorly researched and clinically misunderstood phenomena. The primary aim was to examine the relationships between insecure attachment styles, DEBs, dispositional mindfulness and body dissatisfaction. These relations were investigated in a sample of healthy individuals, in individuals seeking treatment for mental health difficulties and individuals seeking treatment for obesity. This study also examined whether mindfulness and body dissatisfaction are mechanisms underlying the relationship between attachment insecurity and greater DEBs. Method: Data were collected from a convenience sample of 851 individuals in the general population, 65 individuals attending an adult mental health hospital and 43 individuals attending a weight management service for obesity. A cross-sectional, survey-based design was employed and regression, correlational statistics and mediation analyses were utilized to examine the data. Results: The results suggest that compared to a general healthy sample and those with mental health difficulties; individuals with obesity reported significantly greater uncontrolled and emotional eating but no difference was found in restrained eating. Overall, dispositional mindfulness and body dissatisfaction mediated the relationship between insecure attachment and DEBs. Specifically, lower levels of dispositional mindfulness predicted higher body dissatisfaction, which predicted more DEBs and explained the relationship between insecure attachment styles and DEBs. Conclusion: The findings from the current study offer a more clinically representative understanding of insecure attachment styles and DEBs and how they differ among a clinical, non-clinical and obese population. Two psychological constructs in which insecure attachment leads to DEBs were also highlighted. The limitations, clinical implications and directions for future research are considered in detail in the discussion section of this thesis.



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Patrick Ryan

Second supervisor

Rachel M. Msetfi





Department or School

  • Psychology

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