Community-based prospective studies are needed to shed light on mechanisms that may influence development of eating disorders and identify variables that could serve as potential targets for prevention efforts. In this paper we examine level of weight preoccupation and other variables prospectively associated with age of onset of eating disorder symptoms over a 3-year interval in a community sample (N = 939) of young adolescent girls. 3.6% (32/887) experienced onset of symptoms over the interval. Only one factor, a measure of Weight Concerns, was significantly associated with onset (p < 001). Girls scoring in the highest quartile on the measure of Weight Concerns had the shortest survival time (12% incidence by age 14.5) and those scoring in the lowest quartile had the highest survival time (2% incidence by age 14.5; p <001). This finding is consistent with both theoretical and clinical perspectives and represents one of the first prospective demonstrations of a linkage between weight and body shape concerns and later onset of eating disorder symptoms. An understanding of the independent variables that predispose girls to development of symptoms is a useful step towards the establishment of a rational basis for the choice of a prevention intervention target. © 1994 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.