The aims of the present review are to apply a recent risk factor approach (H. C. Kraemer et al., 1997) to putative risk factors for eating disorders, to order these along a timeline, and to deduce general taxonomic questions. Putative risk factors were classified according to risk factor type, outcome (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, full vs. partial syndromes), and additional factor characteristics (specificity, potency, need for replication). Few of the putative risk factors were reported to precede the onset of the disorder. Many factors were general risk factors; only few differentiated between the 3 eating disorder syndromes. Common risk factors from longitudinal and cross-sectional studies were gender, ethnicity, early childhood eating and gastrointestinal problems, elevated weight and shape concerns, negative self-evaluation, sexual abuse and other adverse experiences, and general psychiatric morbidity. Suggestions are made for the conceptualization of future risk factor studies.
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