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Predicting children's reported eating disturbances at 8 years of age.

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  • 1Psychological Institute III, University of Hamburg, Division of Behavior Therapy, Germany.



To examine differential parental influences on eating attitudes and behaviors of 8-year-old children with a specific focus on gender effects and to assess the specificity of this relationship.


One hundred eight infants were monitored from birth and interviewed at age 8 for eating disturbances and negative affect with an adaptation of the McKnight Risk Factor Survey. Parental measures included the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire subscales Disinhibition and Restraint as well as body mass index, assessed at study entry.


No gender differences were found for frequencies of children's self-reported eating disturbances. Higher maternal restraint scores predicted worries about being too fat in girls but not in boys. Higher maternal disinhibition scores also differentially predicted weight control behaviors in their daughters. Negative affect in the child was (weakly) predicted by higher maternal body mass index. No association between paternal predictors of disturbed eating and the child's eating disturbances and negative emotionality was found.


The impact of maternal eating disorders and disturbances is much stronger than that of fathers and is specifically directed at their daughters. The clinical importance of these disturbances in terms of precursors of adolescent eating disorders has to be determined by monitoring the sample through puberty.

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