Future directions in etiologic, prevention, and treatment research for eating disorders

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2012;41(6):845-55. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2012.728156. Epub 2012 Oct 11.


Significant advances have occurred regarding the understanding of etiologic processes that give rise to eating disorders and the design and evaluation of efficacious prevention programs and treatment interventions. Herein we offer suggestions regarding potentially fruitful directions for future research in these areas. We suggest it would be useful to conduct more methodologically rigorous prospective risk factor studies that involve larger samples, longer follow-up periods, validated and objective measures of a broader array of risk factors, multiple informant data, and prediction of eating disorder onset. We also argue that it will be valuable to conduct experiments to confirm the causal influence of putative risk factors. With regard to prevention research, it would be useful to develop programs that produce larger and more persistent reductions in eating disorder symptoms and eating disorder onset; conduct effectiveness trials that confirm that prevention programs produce clinically meaningful effects under real-world conditions; conduct mediational, mechanisms of action, and moderator research that provides stronger support for the intervention theory of prevention programs; and investigate the optimal methods of disseminating and implementing effective programs. In terms of treatment research, there would be value in conducting more research on maintenance factors for eating pathology, rigorous treatment trials that involve credible placebo interventions and comparisons between the most effective treatments, effectiveness trials, research on novel treatments for recently recognized eating disorders, and research on the dissemination and broad implementation of effective treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Behavior Therapy / trends
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / trends
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / prevention & control
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Psychotherapy / trends*
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Self Care
  • Self Concept
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents