The developmental association between eating disorders symptoms and symptoms of depression and anxiety in juvenile twin girls

Judy L Silberg, Cynthia M Bulik
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines 2005, 46 (12): 1317-26

OBJECTIVE: We investigated the role of genetic and environmental factors in the developmental association among symptoms of eating disorders, depression, and anxiety syndromes in 8-13-year-old and 14-17-year-old twin girls.

METHODS: Multivariate genetic models were fitted to child-reported longitudinal symptom data gathered from clinical interview on 408 MZ and 198 DZ female twin pairs from the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioural Development (VTSABD).

RESULTS: Model-fitting revealed distinct etiological patterns underlying the association among symptoms of eating disorders, depression, overanxious disorder (OAD), and separation anxiety disorder (SAD) during the course of development: 1) a common genetic factor influencing liability to all symptoms - of early and later OAD, depression, SAD, and eating symptoms; 2) a distinct genetic factor specifically indexing liability to early eating disorders symptoms; 3) a shared environmental factor specifically influencing early depression and early eating disorders symptoms; and 4) a common environmental factor affecting liability to symptoms of later eating disorders and both early and later separation anxiety.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest a pervasive genetic effect that influences liability to symptoms of over-anxiety, separation anxiety, depression, and eating disorder throughout development, a shared environmental influence on later adolescent eating problems and persistent separation anxiety, genetic influences specific to early eating disorders symptoms, and a shared environmental factor influencing symptoms of early eating and depression.

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