Eating habits and attitudes among 10-year-old children of mothers with eating disorders: longitudinal study.
Stein A., Woolley H., Cooper S., Winterbottom J., Fairburn CG., Cortina-Borja M.
BACKGROUND: Children of mothers with eating disorders are at increased risk of developmental disturbance, but there has been little research in middle childhood, when disturbed eating habits tend to emerge. AIMS: To examine whether maternal eating disorders identified in the postnatal year are associated with the development of disturbed eating habits and attitudes in children at 10 years of age. METHOD: Follow-up comparative study of 56 families (33 mothers with eating disorders and 23 controls). Psychopathology of children, mothers and fathers was assessed by interview, and mother-child interaction observed. RESULTS: The index group of children scored higher than controls on three of four domains of eating disorder psychopathology and on a global score. Children's eating disturbance was associated with length of exposure to mothers' eating disorder and mother-child mealtime conflict at 5 years. There was some evidence of increased emotional problems in index children. CONCLUSIONS: The children of mothers with eating disorders manifested disturbed eating habits and attitudes compared with controls, and may be at heightened risk of developing frank eating disorder psychopathology.