Children of Parents with Eating Disorders

Hunna J. Watson, Amy O’Brien, Shiri Sadeh-Sharvit

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose of Review: Our primary goal in this article is to review recent findings (from 2015 and on) concerning children of parents with eating disorders. This review addresses the question of whether the offspring of parents with past or present eating disorders have adverse outcomes. This update is timely and informative because recent research includes controlled studies and large cohort designs and earlier reviews relied on case report evidence. Recent Findings: Despite substantial diversity in study design, sample size, and parental eating disorder definition, overall, existing research suggests that the children of parents with eating disorders exhibit compromised development: a greater risk of perinatal complications; a tendency toward extremes of growth at birth; greater problems in feeding and eating behaviors and greater incidence of eating disorder symptoms; more psychological and socioemotional difficulties; and more negative qualities to parent-child interactions. Data on children’s cognitive outcomes is thus far inconsistent. Summary: Given the relatively high incidence of eating disorder history in individuals of childbearing age, research into its potential effects on children is necessary. However, the methodological shortcomings and a limited evidence base caution in drawing conclusions. Nevertheless, mental health services should address the possible problems that these children face and offer tailored programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101
JournalCurrent Psychiatry Reports
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


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