UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Attachment and Mentalization in Family Therapy for Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa


Family therapy for adolescent anorexia nervosa is an effective evidence-based treatment but 20-30% do not respond well and have a poor outcome. Emerging evidence suggests that attachment (the nature of relationships with close others, particularly parents and children) and mentalization (the ability to understand behaviour in terms of mental states such as intentions) may be relevant to treatment outcome. This study will evaluate the specific role that attachment and mentalization plays in family therapy for adolescent anorexia. This study will help services to identify at assessment those families at risk of poor outcome, and inform new adaptations to treatment.


The study employs a prospective observational design, wherein patients receiving Family Based Therapy aged between 10-17 with a DSM-V diagnosis of OSFED and a median BMI (Weight For Height) of  85% or 15% loss of body fat, with at least one parent/carer who also consents to take part, complete self-report measures of attachment, mentalizing, and emotion regulation completed at assessment, and at 1, 3, 6, and 9 months.