I've been waiting for some time for a perfect example of what I mean when parents don't cause eating disorders.
Here it is:
We don't know what causes eating disorders. As far as we know, even the worst sort of environment isn't going to trigger an eating disorder without a certain predisposition and unknown other factors, and we simply don't know what causes one person and not another to develop an eating disorder. The severity of an eating disorder isn't indicative of environment at all. Kids develop full-blown horrible EDs in all sorts of environments. Kids fail to develop EDs in environments that are patently toxic (see article). One kid in a family may fall ill, and another thrive.
This kid may indeed grow up with issues about her body size, may eat in a disordered way - maybe even severely, but it is important to distinguish those issues from an eating disorder. An eating disorder isn't just a certain level of disordered eating and body image distress: it is a severe mental illness with more symptoms than just the food behaviors. Eating disorders are not a dosed response to environment.
If, however, this girl has that predisposition for this mental illness -- and that's not a stretch since her mother may have it herself - she's in terrible peril. Even without the misery of such a role model in life an eating disorder diagnosis requires a stable, loving, ordered environment and parenting to support recovery. While parents can't cause an eating disorder they sure as heck CAN keep them ill once it starts. This woman's public statements make it look like any child in her care is not going to get their needs met.
Think of this in terms of the corollary. What if, by some miracle of resiliency, this girl grows up normal and without mental illness or discernible issues around eating and her appearance. Does that mean what her mother did wasn't wrong? It was wrong anyway. Horribly wrong and almost inevitably harmful.
P.S. It should be noted that the doctor TOLD this mother to put her kid on a diet, reportedly. This is going on all over the world and it is wrong.
Added, great new article in Time: http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/27/vogue-essay-by-a-mom-who-put-her-7-year-old-daughter-on-a-diet-garners-outrage/