Maternal Eating Disorders and Eating Disorder Treatment Among Girls in the Growing Up Today Study

J Adolesc Health. 2019 Oct;65(4):469-475. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.04.031. Epub 2019 Jul 2.


Purpose: The aim of the study was to assess whether girls with mothers who have had an eating disorder (ED) have greater odds of developing ED symptoms and whether girls with ED symptoms have greater odds of receiving ED treatment if their mothers have an ED history.

Methods: Data came from 3,649 females in the Growing Up Today Study. Data were collected via questionnaires that were mailed every 12-24 months from 1996 to 2013. Girls who reported on ED treatment in 2013 and whose mothers completed a questionnaire in 2004 about maternal and child EDs were included in main analyses. Generalized estimating equations were used.

Results: Among complete cases, 28.3% of girls reported symptoms meeting criteria for an ED in at least 1 year and, of these, 12.4% reported receiving treatment. Girls with mothers with ED histories had nearly twice the odds of reporting symptoms of any ED (adjusted odds ratio: 1.89; 95% confidence interval: 1.38-2.60). Girls who reported symptoms meeting criteria for any ED had more than twice the odds of reporting treatment if their mother had an ED history (adjusted odds ratio: 2.23; 95% confidence interval: 1.25-3.99).

Conclusions: Girls with mothers with an ED history had greater odds of both reporting ED symptoms and receiving ED treatment. Screening both girls and their mothers for current or previous disordered eating may be important for the prevention and detection of ED symptoms. More research is needed to examine reasons for the association between maternal ED history and ED treatment in girls.

Keywords: Cohort study; Eating disorders; Epidemiology; Population-based; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires