Application of a Latent Class Analysis to Empirically Define Eating Disorder Phenotypes

Pamela K. Keel, Manfred Fichter, Norbert Quadflieg, Cynthia M. Bulik, Mark G. Baxter, Laura Thornton, Katherine A. Halmi, Allan S. Kaplan, Michael Strober, D. Blake Woodside, Scott J. Crow, James E. Mitchell, Alessandro Rotondo, Mauro Mauri, Giovanni Cassano, Janet Treasure, David Goldman, Wade H. Berrettini, Walter H. Kaye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Context: Diagnostic criteria for eating disorders influence how we recognize, research, and treat eating disorders, and empirically valid phenotypes are required for revealing their genetic bases. Objective: To empirically define eating disorder phenotypes. Design: Data regarding eating disorder symptoms and features from 1179 individuals with clinically significant eating disorders were submitted to a latent class analysis. The resulting latent classes were compared on noneating disorder variables in a series of validation analyses. Setting: Multinational, collaborative study with cases ascertained through diverse clinical settings (inpatient, outpatient, and community). Participants: Members of affected relative pairs recruited for participation in genetic studies of eating disoders in which probands met DSM-IV-TR criteria for anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa and had at least 1 biological relative with a clinically significant eating disorder. Main Outcome Measure: Number and clinical characterization of latent classes. Results: A 4-class solution provided the best fit. Latent class 1 (LC1) resembled restricting AN; LC2, AN and bulimia nervosa with the use of multiple methods of purging; LC3, restricting AN without obsessive-compulsive features; and LC4, bulimia nervosa with self-induced vomiting as the sole form of purging. Biological relatives were significantly likely to belong to the same latent class. Across validation analyses, LC2 demonstrated the highest levels of psychological disturbance, and LC3 demonstrated the lowest. Conclusions: The presence of obsessive-compulsive features differentiates among individuals with restricting AN. Similarly, the combination of low weight and multiple methods of purging distinguishes among individuals with binge eating and purging behaviors. These results support some of the distinctions drawn within the DSM-IV-TR among eating disorder subtypes, while introducing new features to define phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-200
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


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