J Korean Neuropsychiatr Assoc.  1999 Mar;38(2):250-265.

Family Study of Eating Disorders

  • 1Department of Neuropsychiatry, Medical College of Medicine, Seoul Paik Hospital, Inje University, Seoul, Korea.


Eating disorders are disorders of unknown etiology characterized by disturbed eating behavior. Many comorbidity studies of eating disorders have consistently supported an association between various psychiatric disorders and eating disorders. There are many strategies for testing the relationship between one disorder and another disorder. Family study is a useful method for testing and establishing such relationship. Strategies for conducting genetic investigation of eating disorders including twin studies, adoption studies, and family studies. These studies have been used to test the relationship between eating disorders and other psychiatric disorders. Despite widely discrepant views about the characteristics of families of eating disorders patients and many methodological difficulties, most researchers and clinicians would agree to the role of familial factors in the pathogenesis and maintenance of eating disorders. For the most part, theoretical speculation in this area has focused on the link between eating disorders and specific patterns of intrafamilial boundaries, conflict management, role dysfunction, affective expression, and broader aspects of the family psychological resources and competencies. Furthermore, in the light of the family environment for eating disorders, high prevalence rates of other psychiatric disorders in the family members may add the risk for the chance of expressing psychopathology to the biologically determined vulnerable subjects. Understanding the relationships between eating disorders and other psychiatric disorders is also important to diagnosis, subclassification, and treatment of the patients with eating disorders. In the present paper, the author first reviewed some methodological issues in family study of eating disorders. Second, the author reviewed the previous literature regarding the family study of eating disorders and the possible implication of their results. Third, the author discussed several conceptual models that offer explanations for the observed results. Fourth, the author proposed the hypothesis which could integrate the various comorbid conditions and their genetic relations to eating disorders.


Family Study; Eating disorders

MeSH Terms

Feeding and Eating Disorders*
Feeding Behavior
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