We evaluated health and development, temperament, body satisfaction, nutritional status, and mealtime interaction patterns in offspring (ages 1–4) of women with current or past anorexia and/or bulimia nervosa in comparison to control children.
Information was gathered via maternal report and interview, health and development records, a 3 day food diary, and a videotaped lunchtime interaction.
Children of women with eating disorders had significantly lower birth weights and lengths than control children. There were no differences observed in childhood temperament or mothers' satisfaction with children's appearance. Mothers with eating disorders had more difficulty maintaining breastfeeding and they made significantly fewer positive comments about food and eating than control mothers during the mealtime observation.
Feeding behavior in women with eating disorders appears to be problematic from pregnancy through the toddler years and has various manifestations from low birth weight, to difficulties with breast feeding, to detached and noninteractive mealtimes. Although these factors are unlikely to cause eating disorders, they may contribute to a permissive environment in which a genetic predisposition is more likely to be expressed. © 1999 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 25: 123–133, 1999.