Declaration of interest
Eating disorder behaviours begin in adolescence. Few longitudinal studies have investigated childhood risk and protective factors.
To investigate the prevalence of eating disorder behaviours and cognitions and associated childhood psychological, physical and parental risk factors among a cohort of 14-year-old children.
Data were collected from 6140 boys and girls aged 14 years. Gender-stratified models were used to estimate prospective associations between childhood body dissatisfaction, body mass index (BMI), self-esteem, maternal eating disorder and family economic disadvantage on adolescent eating disorder behaviours and cognitions.
Childhood body dissatisfaction strongly predicted eating disorder cognitions in girls, but only in interaction with BMI in boys. Higher self-esteem had a protective effect, particularly in boys. Maternal eating disorder predicted body dissatisfaction and weight/shape concern in adolescent girls and dieting in boys.
Risk factors for eating disorder behaviours and cognitions vary according to gender. Prevention strategies should be gender-specific and target modifiable predictors in childhood and early adolescence.
- © The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2015.
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