Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Elithabeth Kaczmarek

Second Advisor

Chris Harris


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a complex condition characterised by an uncertain etiology, protracted course and an inordinately high prevalence among adolescent females. Treatment of AN requires a multifarious approach, however, among adolescents family therapy is considered a necessary component to ensure positive outcome. Interestingly, while the efficacy of these systemic interventions is reliant on parents' ability to cope with treatment demands and stress, adaptive patterns among parents remain relatively under researched. The aim of this inquiry was to address this paucity of studies focused on mothers and fathers by providing a preliminary investigation of differences in their stress and coping patterns. Participants were parents of adolescent females diagnosed with AN by the Princess Margaret Hospital Eating Disorder Team. Two self-report measures were used, the Stress Index for Parents of Adolescents and the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations: Situation Specific Coping. Data was analysed using independent samples t-tests, correlations and multiple regression. Analyses indicate mothers experience higher stress than fathers in relation to their role as a parent. Differences in coping style were detected, with mothers employing both emotion-oriented and avoidant coping strategies more than fathers. A positive relationship between these two coping styles and higher stress was also found. Results suggest mothers' stress is related to feelings of guilt combined with a sense of isolation, lack of support and perceived inability to assist in recovery. Implications and future directions aimed at enhancing parents' support resources and feelings of efficacy toward treatment are discussed.