Age differences in genetic and environmental influences on weight and shape concerns




Previous research has shown important developmental shifts ingenetic and environmental influences for disordered eating. However, little research has examined age differences for weight/shape concerns, two key components of eating disorders. The goal of this study was to investigate these age differences in preadolescent, adolescent, young adult, and mid-adult twins.


Participants included 2,618 female twins (ages of 10–41 years) from three large twin registries. Shape and weight concerns were assessed with the Eating Disorders Examination Questionnaire.


Genetic influences were modest in preadolescent twins, but significant from early-adolescence through middle adulthood. Shared environmental factors showed the opposite pattern, with the largest shared environmental contributions occurring in the youngest age group. Nonshared environmental effects remained relatively constant across age.


Findings highlight the importance of age differences in genetic and environmental influences. Possible mechanisms include gene x environment interactions and biological changes associated with key developmental stages. © 2009 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2010; 43:679–688