Background Three cognitive constructs are risk factors for eating disorders: undue influence of weight and shape, concern about weight and shape, and body dissatisfaction (BD). Undue influence, a diagnostic criterion for eating disorders, is postulated to be closely associated with self-esteem whereas BD is postulated to be closely associated with body mass index (BMI). We understand less about the relationships with concern about weight and shape. The aim of the current investigation was examine the degree of overlap across these five phenotypes in terms of latent genetic and environmental risk factors in order to draw some conclusions about the similarities and differences across the three cognitive variables.Method A sample of female Australian twins (n=1056, including 348 complete pairs), mean age 35 years (s.d.=2.11, range 28-40), completed a semi-structured interview about eating pathology and self-report questionnaires. An independent pathways model was used to investigate the overlap of genetic and environmental risk factors for the five phenotypes.Results In terms of variance that was not shared with other phenotypes, self-esteem emerged as being separate, with 100% of its variance unshared with the other phenotypes, followed by undue influence (51%) and then concern (34%), BD (28%) and BMI (32%).Conclusions In terms of shared genetic risk, undue influence and concern were more closely related than BD, whereas BMI and BD were found to share common sources of risk. With respect to environmental risk factors, concern, BMI and BD were more closely related to each other than to undue influence.