Looking good—family focus on appearance and the risk for eating disorders




Evidence suggests that eating-disordered families are overly concerned with social appearance and physical attractiveness. However, some argue that parental values are not sufficient to produce disordered eating in their offspring unless combined with certain third-factor effects of the child such as a psychological or biologic vulnerability. We tested this hypothesis by predicting that proneness to anxiety (neuroticism) and a family appearance focus would relate interactively (after controlling for body size) to a measure of weight preoccupation.


Data from 158 healthy young women were used in the analyses.


Statistical analyses confirmed our hypothesis in a multiple regression model that accounted for 42% of the variance in weight preoccupation.


Findings support the view that family risk factors have a more potent influence on young women who are easily made anxious—perhaps because they are more sensitive to, or more likely to internalize, pressures and expectations to conform to family values. © 2004 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 35: 136–144, 2004.