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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 Aug;48(8):791-9. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181ab8b75.

Childhood risk factors for lifetime anorexia nervosa by age 30 years in a national birth cohort.

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  • 1Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK.



To examine whether previously identified childhood risk factors for anorexia nervosa (AN) predict self-reported lifetime AN by age 30 years in a prospective birth cohort.


Using data from the 1970 British Cohort Study, at birth, 5, 10, and 30 years, we examined associations between suggested childhood risk factors and self-reported lifetime AN at 30 years, adjusted for sex and socioeconomic status.


Anorexia nervosa was independently predicted by female sex (odds ratio [OR] 22.1), infant feeding problems (OR 2.6), maternal depressive symptoms (OR 1.8), and a history of undereating (OR 2.7). High self-esteem (OR 0.3) and higher maternal body mass index (OR 0.91) were protective.


Of 22 suggested risk factors for AN, only four risk and two protective factors were confirmed in this prospective cohort study. We did not identify a role for perinatal factors, parenting, childhood body mass index, childhood emotional or sleep problems, academic ability, or exercise.

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