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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2003;12 Suppl 1:I110-19.

The offspring of mothers with eating disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge and Bedfordshire and Luton Community NHS Trust, 18b Trumpington Road, Cambridge CB2 2AH.


There is good evidence that children of parents with psychiatric disorders are at increased risk of disturbances in their development. There is considerable research on disorders such as depression and alcohol abuse, but research on the children of parents with eating disorders has only recently emerged. This paper reviews evidence in a number of domains, including genetic factors; pregnancy; the perinatal and postpartum period; followed by infancy, and the early years, focusing on feeding and mealtimes, general parenting functions and growth. Psychopathology in the children, parental attitudes to children's weight and shape, and adolescence are then considered. While numerous case reports and series have been published, there are very few systematic controlled studies, and virtually no reports of the influence of fathers with eating disorders or the male partners of mothers with eating disorders. The available evidence suggests that children of mothers with eating disorders are themselves at increased risk of disturbance in a variety of domains. This risk depends on a range of factors, and it should be noted that difficulties in the offspring of mothers with an eating disorder are far from invariable. Finally, based on current evidence, five types of mechanisms by which eating disturbance in parents can influence child development are summarised.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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