Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work

Program Name/Specialization

Individuals, Families, and Groups


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Gary Cameron

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Dr. Michelle Skop

Advisor Role



Eating disorders (EDs) are serious, life-threatening illnesses that typically occur in adolescence. Immediate intervention is necessary in order to interrupt the associated behaviours. Typically, adolescents struggling with EDs minimize the severity the illness has on their psychological and physiological wellbeing. For this reason, family involvement in the intervention is strongly recommended. Additionally, family involvement has shown to increase the likelihood of better outcomes. Parents are typically tasked with the responsibility of making and monitoring meals and/or interrupting compensatory behaviours. These tasks often lead to high conflict. Despite the importance of parental involvement, predominantly, it is mothers who fulfill the intensive and demanding caregiving role for their child. It is typically women who make numerous personal sacrifices to interrupt the ED. Current literature has not given attention to the reality that women are in intensive caregiving roles for their adolescent diagnosed with an ED, often for a prolonged period of time. Given their importance in treatment, it is vital to understand the experiences of women who have a child diagnosed with an ED. Using narrative inquiry, I interviewed ten women (seven married, three single) to learn of their experiences of caring for a child with an ED. Eight women were interviewed three times, two women were interviewed twice. Each interview ranged from 45 minutes to 160 minutes. The research question guiding this inquiry was: “What are the experiences of women who have a child diagnosed with an ED?” Four key storylines emerged. First, women were overwhelmed with the challenges of living daily with an ED. Second, they felt that numerous impossible expectations were placed upon them. Third, they felt that there was more to them than being mothers to their children. Fourth, though they were grateful that services existed, they needed more support. This study urges focusing research attention on adjusting and broadening current treatment models and gives a voice to women who are typically in the front lines of ED caregiving, yet whose stories remain untold.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season