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Family background and sexual abuse associated with eating disorders
Am J Psychiatry 1994;151:1127-1131.
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OBJECTIVE: The authors examined the possible relationship of negative early familial experiences and childhood sexual abuse to the later development of eating disorders. METHODS: Three anonymous questionnaires--a sexual abuse screening checklist, the Biographic Inventory for Diagnosis of Behavioral Disturbances, and the Eating Disorder Inventory--were distributed to 350 female university students. RESULTS: Of the 202 women who completed the questionnaires, 44 (21.8%) were victims of childhood sexual abuse. There were no significant differences in the total or the subscale scores on the Eating Disorder Inventory among women with no, one, or repeated incidents of sexual abuse. However, women who reported an adverse family background displayed significantly higher Eating Disorder Inventory total and subscale scores than did women who assessed family background as a secure base. CONCLUSIONS: The data in this nonclinical female cohort suggest that childhood sexual abuse is neither necessary nor sufficient for the later development of an eating disorder, while an adverse family background may be an important etiological factor.

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