Eating Disorder-Specific Risk Factors Moderate the Relationship Between Negative Urgency and Binge Eating: A Behavioral Genetic Investigation

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Theoretical models of binge eating and eating disorders include both transdiagnostic and eating disorder-specific risk factors. Negative urgency (i.e., the tendency to act impulsively when distressed) is a critical transdiagnostic risk factor for binge eating, but limited research has examined interactions between negative urgency and disorder-specific variables. Investigating these interactions can help identify the circumstances under which negative urgency is most strongly associated with binge eating. We examined whether prominent risk factors (i.e., appearance pressures, thin-ideal internalization, body dissatisfaction, dietary restraint) specified in well-established etiologic models of eating disorders moderate negative urgency-binge eating associations. Further, we investigated whether phenotypic moderation effects were due to genetic and/or environmental associations between negative urgency and binge eating. Participants were 988 female twins aged 11–25 years from the Michigan State University Twin Registry. Appearance pressures, thin-ideal internalization, and body dissatisfaction, but not dietary restraint, significantly moderated negative urgency-binge eating associations, with high levels of these risk factors and high negative urgency associated with the greatest binge eating. Twin moderation models revealed that genetic, but not environmental, sharing between negative urgency and binge eating was enhanced at higher levels of these eating disorder-specific variables. Future longitudinal research should investigate whether eating disorder risk factors shape genetic influences on negative urgency into manifesting as binge eating.

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