Eating disorders mothers and their children: a systematic review of the literature

Maria Giulia Martini, Manuela Barona-Martinez, Nadia Micali

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Citations (SciVal)


To provide an overview of the impact of maternal eating disorders (ED) on child development in a number of domains including feeding and eating behaviour, neuropsychological profile and cognitive development, psychopathology and temperament. PubMed, Embase and PsychInfo were searched for studies exploring the impact of maternal ED on children between January 1980 and September 2018. Initial search yielded 569 studies. After exclusion, 32 studies were reviewed. Overall, available evidence shows that children of mothers with ED are at increased risk of disturbances in several domains. They exhibit more difficulties in feeding and eating behaviours, display more psychopathological and socio-emotional difficulties, and they are more likely to be described as having a difficult temperament. Maternal ED have an impact on child psychological, cognitive and eating behaviours, and might affect the development of ED in the offspring. Future research should focus on resilience and on which protective factors might lead to positive outcomes. These factors can be then used as therapeutic and preventative targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-467
Number of pages19
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020


  • Children
  • Eating disorder
  • Intergenerational effect
  • Mothers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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