Differences in genetic and environmental influences on body weight and shape concerns across pubertal development in females

Shannon M. O'Connor, Kristen M. Culbert, Laura A. Mayhall, S. Alexandra Burt, Kelly L. Klump

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The heritability of disordered eating increases during puberty; however, prior studies have largely examined a composite score of disordered eating, rather than specific symptoms. Body weight and shape concerns cut across all eating disorder diagnoses and are some of the strongest prospective risk factors for the development of eating disorders. Yet, little is known about potential developmental increases or decreases in genetic and environmental influences for these key symptoms. This study examined differences in genetic and environmental effects on a range of body weight and shape concerns during puberty and compared results to findings for overall levels of disordered eating symptoms. Participants were 926 same-sex female twins (ages 8–16) from the Michigan State University Twin Registry. Well-validated questionnaires were used to examine pubertal maturation, overall levels of disordered eating, and a range of cognitive body weight/shape constructs: body dissatisfaction, weight/shape concerns, and weight preoccupation. Findings for overall levels of disordered eating were very similar to those obtained in previous work, with significantly increased genetic effects in girls at more advanced pubertal development. Importantly, these same pubertal increases in genetic influences were observed for body dissatisfaction and weight/shape concerns. However, no pubertal moderation of genetic effects was observed for weight preoccupation; instead, pubertal moderation of nonshared and shared environmental effects was observed. Our findings point to differences in the extent to which genetic and environmental factors contribute to various cognitive body weight and shape symptoms during puberty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-46
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Adolescence
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Eating disorders
  • Genetic
  • Puberty
  • Weight preoccupation


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