Genetic and Environmental Influences on Disordered Eating: An Adoption Study

Kelly L. Klump, Jessica L. Suisman, S. Alexandra Burt, Matt McGue, William G. Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Twin studies indicate significant genetic, but little shared environmental, influences on eating disorders. However, critics argue that study limitations constrain the conclusions that can be drawn. Adoption studies avoid many of these limitations, but to date, no adoption studies of eating pathology have been conducted. The current study was the first adoption study to examine genetic/environmental effects for disordered eating. Participants included 123 adopted and 56 biological female sibling pairs. Disordered eating (i.e., overall eating pathology, body dissatisfaction, weight preoccupation, binge eating) was assessed with the Minnesota Eating Behaviors Survey (Klump, McGue, & Iacono, 2000; von Ranson, Klump, Iacono, & McGue, 2005). Biometric model fitting indicated significant genetic influences (59%-82%) on all forms of disordered eating, with nonshared environmental factors accounting for the remaining variance. Shared environmental factors did not contribute significantly to any disordered eating symptom. Our findings bolster those from twin studies and provide critical evidence of significant genetic effects on disordered eating symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-805
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • adoption study
  • anorexia nervosa
  • bulimia nervosa
  • eating disorders
  • genetic


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