Investigation of quality of the parental relationship as a risk factor for subclinical bulimia nervosa




Previous literature suggests a link between the quality of the parental relationship and disordered eating in offspring. We investigated the relationship between offspring pyschopathology and the parental relationship using a population-based twin registry that contained 766 complete twin pairs.


We used reports of twin lifetime psychopathology from the twins and quality of parental relationship and parental lifetime psychopathology from both parents.


Poorer quality of the marital relationship predicted the presence of subclinical bulimia nervosa (SBN) using both mother's (odds ratio [OR] = 0.83, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.71–0.97) and father's (OR = 0.78, 95% CI: 0.62–0.97) reports. It also predicted the presence of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and alcohol dependence. SBN was still strongly predicted by the marital relationship when parental psychopathology was included as a covariate.


These results are supportive of the notion that a conflictual and distant marital relationship can, at least partially, act as an environmental risk factor for SBN. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 30: 389–400, 2001.