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Int J Eat Disord. 2014 Jan;47(1):47-53. doi: 10.1002/eat.22201. Epub 2013 Oct 28.

Comparative study of children and adolescents referred for eating disorder treatment at a specialist tertiary setting.

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School of Psychology and Exercise Science, Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia.



To examine child and adolescent differences in the clinical presentation of eating disorders (EDs) at referral to a specialist pediatric program.


This study compared cognitive, behavioral, and physical and medical features of children (≤ 12 years) and adolescents (13-18 years) with EDs presenting to a state-wide specialist pediatric ED service over two decades (N = 656; 8-18 years; 94% female).


Significant differences were found between the groups. Children were more commonly male (p < .001), had lower eating pathology scores (p < .001), were less likely to binge eat (p = .02), purge (p < .001) or exercise for shape and weight control (p < .001), and lost weight at a faster rate than adolescents (p = .009), whereas adolescents were more likely to present with bulimia nervosa spectrum disorders (p = .004). Children and adolescents did not differ significantly on mean body mass index z-score, percentage of body weight lost, or indicators of medical compromise (p > .05).


The clinical presentation of EDs differs among children and adolescents, with eating pathology and behavioral symptoms less prominent among children. Frontline health professionals require knowledge of these differences to assist with early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis.


adolescent; anorexia nervosa; bulimia nervosa; child; developmental psychopathology; eating disorders; medical complications

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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