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Developmental antecedents of abnormal eating attitudes and behaviors in adolescence

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This study capitalizes on developmental data from an Australian population-based birth cohort to identify developmental markers of abnormal eating attitudes and behaviors in adolescence. The aims were twofold: (1) to develop a comprehensive path model identifying infant and childhood developmental correlates of Abnormal Eating Attitudes and Behaviors in adolescence, and (2) to explore potential gender differences.


Data were drawn from a 30-year longitudinal study that has followed the health and development of a population based cohort across 15 waves of data collection from infancy since 1983: The Australian Temperament Project. Participants in this analysis were the 1,300 youth who completed the 11th survey at 15-16 years (1998) and who completed the eating disorder inventory at this time point.


Developmental correlates of Abnormal Eating Attitudes and Behaviors in mid-adolescence were temperamental persistence, early gestational age, persistent high weight, teen depression, stronger peer relationships, maternal dieting behavior, and pubertal timing. Overall, these factors accounted for 28% of the variance in Abnormal Eating Attitudes and Behaviors at 15-16 years of age. Depressive symptoms, maternal dieting behavior, and early puberty were more important factors for girls. Late puberty was a more important factor for boys.


Findings address an important gap in our understanding of the etiology of Abnormal Eating Attitudes and Behaviors in adolescence and suggest multiple targets for preventive intervention.

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