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Growth trajectories in the children of mothers with eating disorders: a longitudinal study

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere004453
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Early online date27 Mar 2014
Accepted/In press20 Feb 2014
E-pub ahead of print27 Mar 2014
Published27 Mar 2014


King's Authors


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine longitudinal patterns of growth trajectories in children of women with eating disorders (ED): anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN).

Design: Prospective longitudinal birth cohort; Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Setting: South West England, UK.

Participants: The sample consisted of women and their children (n=10 190) from ALSPAC. Patterns of growth among children of women reporting a history of AN (n=137), BN (n=165), both AN and BN (n=68) and other psychiatric disorders (n=920) were compared with an unexposed group of children (n=8900).

Main outcome measures: Height and weight data, from birth to 10 years, were extracted from health visitor records, parental report from questionnaires and clinic attendances. Growth trajectories were analysed using mixed-effects models and constructed separately for male and female children.

Results: Between birth and 10 years, male children of women with BN were taller than children in the unexposed group. Male children of women with a history of AN and BN, and female children of women with AN, were shorter throughout childhood. Between the ages of 2 and 5, higher body mass index (BMI) was observed in male children in all maternal ED groups. Conversely, female children of women with AN had a BMI of −0.35 kg/m2 lower at 2 years compared with the unexposed group, with catch-up by age 10.

Conclusions: Early childhood growth has been found to predict weight gain in adolescence and adulthood, and may be a risk factor for the development of an ED. These findings therefore have public health implications in relation to the prevention of weight-related and eating-related disorders later in life.

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