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Development of weight and shape concerns in the aetiology of eating disorders

  • Simon G. Gowers (a1) and Alison Shore (a1)
Abstract
Background

Although weight and shape concerns are considered to be integral to the psychopathology of anorexia and bulimia nervosa, uncertainties remain about developmental aspects of the aetiology of these concerns and their relationship to eating disorders.

Aims

To review the recent literature on weight and shape concern, with particular emphasis on aetiology, to identify a possible developmental pathway from weight concern through abnormal eating behaviour to disorder.

Method

Literature review of Medline and Psychlit databases using the keywords ‘eating disosrder’, ‘weight concern’, ‘shape concern’ and ‘aetiology’. Inclusion criteria were based on the strength of quantitative research findings, originality of ideas and recent publication.

Results

Weight and shape concerns follow a developmental pathway arising before the typical age for the development of eating disorders. The origins are multifactorial, with biological, family and sociocultural features predominating.

Conclusions

Although weight and shape concern seems commonly to underlie the development of eating disorders, an alternative pathway appears to exist through impulsivity and fear of loss of control. Prevention strategies may usefully focus on the attitudes and concerns that lead to dieting behaviour.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor Simon G. Gowers, Academic Unit, 79 Liverpool Road, Chester CH2 1AW, UK
Footnotes
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See editorial, pp. 189–190, this issue.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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Development of weight and shape concerns in the aetiology of eating disorders

  • Simon G. Gowers (a1) and Alison Shore (a1)
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