Holocaust exposure and disordered eating: a study of multi-generational transmission

Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2007 Jan;15(1):50-7. doi: 10.1002/erv.730.


Objective: To test the hypothesis that disordered eating in second- and third-generation women would be related to their levels of Holocaust exposure and family dysfunction.

Method: One hundred eight mother-daughter dyads were ascertained through the daughters, all Israeli college students 18-35 years of age. Mothers and daughters assessed themselves on family function, Holocaust exposure and disordered eating.

Results: The disordered eating of women of the third generation was partially predicted by their mothers' disordered eating and by their mothers' Holocaust exposure. The second generation reported more maternal over-protection and emotional over-involvement than did the third generation. Contrary to expectation, the third-generation women were more Holocaust exposed than were the second generation.

Discussion: The nature of Holocaust exposure for second and third generations needs further study and clarification in relation to disordered eating. There is considerable disparity between the results of clinical and qualitative studies which tend to find a strong relationship between Holocaust exposure and psychopathology, and population-based quantitative studies which tend to find a much weaker relationship.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / ethnology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Holocaust / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Jews / psychology*
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology
  • Object Attachment
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk
  • World War II