Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Cindy Hagemeier White

Second Advisor

Ruth Hickerson

Third Advisor

Joanne Belknap


The purpose of this project was to interview college-aged women in the recovery stage of their eating disorder to explore the impact of this experience on their relationships with their mothers, specifically in terms of disclosure and deception processes. The ten women who participated in this study were asked a set of interview questions in a thematic approach centered on disclosure, deception, and their perceptions of their family environments. Participants provided various reasons for why they chose not to disclose to their mothers, which can be categorized as (1) managing disclosure to protect, (2) managing disclosure to avoid negative consequences, and (3) managing privacy/identity. The second communication process investigated was deception. This study revealed that deception involved in mother-daughter relationships impacted by an eating disorder raised two themes (1) deception as a normalized practice and (2) deception resulting in restricted interaction. Finally, participants described their perception of their family environment and its impact on their disordered eating. This thesis provides insight into the interplay between disclosure and deception in families when an eating disorder has occurred. This study suggests future research should explore relational dialectical theory as an approach for further understanding of competing tensions involved in the mother-daughter relationship as impacted by an eating disorder. Ultimately, daughters’ eating disorder experiences in terms of disclosure, deception, and their perceptions of their family environments reflect the larger cultural expectations of what constitutes as a “good” mother-daughter relationship.