Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 353–360 | Cite as

The Influence of Heritability, Neuroticism, Maternal Warmth and Media Use on Disordered Eating Behaviors: A Prospective Analysis of Twins

  • Christopher J. FergusonEmail author
  • Monica E. Muñoz
  • Ben Winegard
  • Bo Winegard
Original Paper


The relative impact of genetic and social influences on disordered eating behaviors (DEB) including binging, purging, excessive dieting and negative self-evaluations about weight remain an issue of debate. The current study sought to examine the relative influence of genetic and social influences on DEB. A 7-year prospective analysis of 580 monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins was conducted. Estimates of heritability of DEB were obtained using the DF Analysis Model. Regression equations revealed the relative predictive value of sibling’s DEB, neurotic personality, maternal warmth and television and video game exposure on DEB. Heritability estimates for DEB were 0.40 for females and 0.48 for males. Among MZ and DZ twin pairs, female sex, neurotic personality and a genetic variable component, but not maternal warmth or school related problems, predicted DEB. Contrary to the expectations of media effects theory, greater media use was associated with lower DEB among DZ twins and had no influence on MZ twins. These results indicate that DEB is highly heritable and that personality variables may play an important role in the formation of DEB. This suggests that it is important to control for genetic variables when analyzing risk factors for DEB.


Body dissatisfaction Eating disorders Genetics Personality Mass media 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Ferguson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Monica E. Muñoz
    • 1
  • Ben Winegard
    • 2
  • Bo Winegard
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and CommunicationTexas A&M International UniversityLaredoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychological SciencesThe University of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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