Background. Meta-analyses have established a high prevalence of childhood maltreatment (CM) in patients with eating disorders (EDs) relative to the general population. Whether the prevalence of CM in EDs is also high relative to that in other mental disorders has not yet been established through meta-analyses nor to what extent CM affects defining features of EDs, such as number of binge/purge episodes or age at onset. Our aim is to provide meta-analyses on the associations between exposure to CM (i.e. emotional, physical and sexual abuse) on the occurrence of all types of EDs and its defining features.
Method. Systematic review and meta-analyses. Databases were searched until 4 June 2016.
Results. CM prevalence was high in each type of ED (total N = 13 059, prevalence rates 21-59%) relative to healthy (N = 15 092, prevalence rates 1-35%) and psychiatric (N = 7736, prevalence rates 5-46%) control groups. ED patients reporting CM were more likely to be diagnosed with a co-morbid psychiatric disorder [odds ratios (ORs) range 1.41-2.46, p <0.05] and to be suicidal (OR 2.07, p <0.001) relative to ED subjects who were not exposed to CM. ED subjects exposed to CM also reported an earlier age at ED onset [effect size (Hedges' g) = -0.32, p <0.05], to suffer a more severe form of the illness (g = 0.29, p <0.05), and to binge-purge (g = 0.31, p <0.001) more often compared to ED patients who did not report any CM.
Conclusion. CM, regardless of type, is associated with the presence of all types of ED and with severity parameters that characterize these illnesses in a dose dependent manner.