British Journal of Clinical Psychology

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Volume 39 Issue 3 (September 2000), Pages 223-328

Sexual maturation and control issues among sexually abused and non‐abused anorexia patients (pages 307-310)

Objectives. To assess the relative salience of the maintenance of control and the avoidance of sexual maturation as sources of motivation for maintaining pathological eating behaviours among sexually abused anorexic patients.

Design/methods. A two‐factor mixed experimental design was employed. Three independent groups (sexually abused anorexics (N = 12); non‐abused anorexics (N = 9); non‐anorexic/non‐abused controls (N = 12)) constituted the between subjects factor. Allocation to abuse/non‐abuse group was dependent upon replies to a questionnaire‐based measure of unwanted sexual experience. The within subjects factor comprised three conditions in which words of various colours were presented to participants for colour‐naming (Stroop, 1935). The conditions were represented by lists of neutral words, sexual maturation words, and control‐related words. Two trials were carried out in each condition and mean response times were measured.

Results. Within‐group analyses revealed that interference was greater from sexual maturation words than from control‐related words among the sexually‐abused anorexics, but of equal magnitude among non‐abused counterparts. Between groups analyses found that abused patients experienced marginally greater cognitive interference from sexual maturation words than the non‐abused patients.

Conclusion. Theoretically, support is offered for elaborated schematic models of cognitive processing. Clinically, treatment interventions may need to pay particular attention to issues of sexual maturation among sexually abused anorexic patients.

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