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Interactions Between Disturbed Eating and Weight in Children and Their Mothers

Jacobi, Corinna PhD, Dipl.-Psych.*; Schmitz, Gabriele Dipl.-Psych.; Agras, William Stewart MD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: October 2008 - Volume 29 - Issue 5 - p 360-366
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31817dbd7d
Original Article

Objective: This study assessed the interaction between disturbed eating behavior and body mass index (BMI) in children aged 8 to 12 and maternal eating problems and BMI.

Method: In a cohort study, four hundred twenty-six 8- to 12-year-old children and their primary caretakers (91% mothers) were assessed in a small city. Disturbed eating behavior in children was measured by the “IEG-IEG-Child-Questionnaire,” a validated German self-report instrument for children. Disturbed eating behavior in mothers was assessed by TFEQ-subscale disinhibition.

Results: Children’s BMI was a significant covariate of disturbed eating. Older girls with higher BMI endorsed more problems with eating and weight, and more body dissatisfaction than boys and younger children. Daughters of overweight mothers restrained their own eating behavior more than daughters of normal weight mothers and sons regardless of mothers’ weight. Older daughters of overweight mothers were more dissatisfied with their own bodies than younger daughters and children of normal weight mothers. Children of mothers with elevated disinhibition showed more body dissatisfaction than children of mothers with lower disinhibition.

Conclusions: The results illustrate the complex and differential relationships between age, gender, BMI, and maternal variables and eating disturbances in children. Preventive interventions for the reduction of disturbed eating in children should be targeted at overweight mothers and mothers with disinhibited eating.

From the *University of Dresden, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Dresden, Germany; †St. Franziska Stift, Bad Kreuznach, Germany; ‡Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA.

Received July 5, 2007; accepted March 26, 2008.

Address correspondence to Corinna Jacobi, PhD, Dipl.-Psych., Technische Universität Dresden, Institut für Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie, Chemnitzer Straβe 46, D- 01187 Dresden, Germany; e-mail:

Statistical Experts: Dr. Stephan Rustenbach and Susan Bryson.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.