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

Research paper by Abigail A Easter, Laura D LD Howe, Kate K Tilling, Ulrike U Schmidt, Janet J Treasure, Nadia N Micali

Indexed on: 29 Mar '14Published on: 29 Mar '14Published in: BMJ open


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).Prospective longitudinal birth cohort; Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).South West England, UK.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).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.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/m(2) lower at 2 years compared with the unexposed group, with catch-up by age 10.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.