Young teenage girls experiencing family conflict or with symptoms of depression are more likely to engage in activities associated with eating disorders, such as counting calories and skipping meals, according to a new study.

Those who had more conflicts at home were also more prone to dieting behaviors. Feeling depressed explained at least a part of that connection, according to the study authors.

Many factors, including socialization by peers, media and family are associated with the development of risky dieting, said coauthor Adrian B. Kelly of The University of Queensland.

"This study takes a look at the emotional climate of families as an underlying vulnerability of girls to risky dieting," Kelly said.

Girls with lower economic statuses and ones who started their puberty early, having their first periods at age 11 or younger, were more likely to diet than others.

"There are many things that can be done - this study points to the potential value of addressing stressful family events like conflict and working on ways to reduce the negative impact on childrens' emotional wellbeing," Kelly told Reuters.

The authors stressed that the study focuses only in one point in time. It only indicates conflict and depression are connected to risky eating behavior, not addressing whether they cause it or not.

The study was conducted by surveying more than 1400 girls in more than 200 schools in Australia.

The findings should be treated cautiously until they are confirmed in long-term studies and researchers test interventions to reduce depression, said professor John Toumbourou, chair in health psychology at Deakin University in Australia, who was not involved in the research.

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