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Numerous longitudinal studies have identified risk factors for the onset of most eating disorders (EDs). Identifying women at highest risk within a high-risk sample would allow for focusing of preventive resources and also suggests different etiologies.
A longitudinal cohort study over 3 years in a high-risk sample of 236 college-age women randomized to the control group of a prevention trial for EDs. Potential risk factors and interactions between risk factors were assessed using the methods developed previously. Main outcome measures were time to onset of a subthreshold or full ED.
At the 3-year follow-up, 11.2% of participants had developed a full or partial ED. Seven of 88 potential risk factors could be classified as independent risk factors, seven as proxies, and two as overlapping factors. Critical comments about eating from teacher/coach/siblings and a history of depression were the most potent risk factors. The incidence for participants with either or both of these risk factors was 34.8% (16/46) compared to 4.2% (6/144) for participants without these risk factors, with a sensitivity of 0.75 and a specificity of 0.82.
Targeting preventive interventions at women with high weight and shape concerns, a history of critical comments about eating weight and shape, and a history of depression may reduce the risk for EDs.
Anorexia nervosa (AN) is associated with behavioral traits that predate the onset of AN and persist after recovery. We identified patterns of behavioral traits in AN trios (proband plus two biological parents).
A total of 433 complete trios were collected in the Price Foundation Genetic Study of AN using standardized instruments for eating disorder (ED) symptoms, anxiety, perfectionism, and temperament. We used latent profile analysis and ANOVA to identify and validate patterns of behavioral traits.
We distinguished three classes with medium to large effect sizes by mothers' and probands' drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, perfectionism, neuroticism, trait anxiety, and harm avoidance. Fathers did not differ significantly across classes. Classes were distinguished by degree of symptomatology rather than qualitative differences. Class 1 (~33%) comprised low symptom probands and mothers with scores in the healthy range. Class 2 (~43%) included probands with marked elevations in drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, neuroticism, trait anxiety, and harm avoidance and mothers with mild anxious/perfectionistic traits. Class 3 (~24%) included probands and mothers with elevations on ED and anxious/perfectionistic traits. Mother–daughter symptom severity was related in classes 1 and 3 only. Trio profiles did not differ significantly by proband clinical status or subtype.
A key finding is the importance of mother and daughter traits in the identification of temperament and personality patterns in families affected by AN. Mother–daughter pairs with severe ED and anxious/perfectionistic traits may represent a more homogeneous and familial variant of AN that could be of value in genetic studies.
Prospective, longitudinal studies of risk factors for anorexia nervosa (AN) are lacking and existing cross-sectional studies are generally narrow in focus and lack methodological rigor. Building on two studies that used the Oxford Risk Factor Interview (RFI) to establish time precedence and comprehensively assess potential risk correlates for AN, the present study advances this line of research and represents the first case-control study of risk factors for AN in the USA.
The RFI was used for retrospective assessment of a broad range of risk factors, while establishing time precedence. Using a case-control design, 50 women who met DSM-IV criteria for AN were compared to those with non-eating disorder DSM-IV psychiatric disorders (n=50) and those with no psychiatric disorder (n=50).
Women with psychiatric disorders reported higher rates of negative affectivity, maternal and paternal parenting problems, family discord, parental mood and substance disorder, and physical and sexual abuse than women with no psychiatric disorder. Women with AN specifically reported greater severity and significantly higher rates of negative affectivity, perfectionism and family discord, and higher parental demands than women with other psychiatric disorders. The role of weight and shape concerns was most salient in the year preceding onset of AN.
Convergent data identifying common risk factors as well as those more severe in the development of AN are emerging to inform longitudinal risk factor and prevention studies for this disorder.
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