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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.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date





324 - 329


Adult, Analysis of Variance, Attitude to Health, Child, Child of Impaired Parents, Feeding Behavior, Feeding and Eating Disorders, Female, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Mother-Child Relations