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Keywords:

  • temperature;
  • fetal development;
  • eating attitudes;
  • restriction

Abstract

Objective

Among nonclinical adolescents, restrictive eating attitudes are more likely to occur among females born during warmer months. The present study aimed to replicate this finding and to extend it, considering whether such an effect is found in males and across the teenage years. In addition, the influence of temperature across the intrauterine period was considered.

Method

The participants consisted of younger and older teenagers, all born in England. Each completed the relevant scales of the Eating Disorders Inventory and provided demographic information. Temperature across fetal development was determined using national meteorological records.

Results

There was a positive link between restrictive attitudes and temperature at birth among the older female group, although this replication effect did not reach significance. The same association among the older males was highly significant. The range of temperatures during fetal development also predicted later restrictive attitudes. In contrast, these effects were not replicated among the younger group, where a different pattern of effect was found (among the females only).

Conclusion

Environmental temperature seems to have an important influence on later eating attitudes, but the pattern of influence appears to vary across development. Therefore, studies of the mechanisms behind this effect need to consider the role of gender and development, as well as the role of temperature across the period of intrauterine development. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 30: 413–420, 2001.