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

Kelly L. Klump, S. Alexandra Burt, Alexia Spanos, Matt McGue, William G. Iacono, Tracey D. Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Objective 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. Method 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. Results 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. Discussion 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-688
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • age differences
  • eating disorders examination questionnaire
  • genetic influences
  • shape concerns
  • weight concerns


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