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Psychol Rep. 1998 Aug;83(1):251-60.

Family relations and psychosocial risk in families with an obese adolescent.

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  • 1Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milan, Italy.


The aim of the present study is a comparison of family relations in families with an obese adolescent and families with a normal-weight adolescent. Particularly, we studied the parents' and children's perceptions of some crucial areas of their relationship, e.g., communication, support, and some factors of "psychosocial risk" for the adolescents. We compared 30 family triads each with an obese child and 30 family triads each with a normal-weight child. We used a questionnaire aimed to evaluate some crucial variables of family functioning such as communication, family climate, support and satisfaction. A multivariate analysis of variance yielded no difference between obese and nonobese adolescents concerning communication with their mothers and fathers and concerning support given and received from them. In particular, analysis indicated no difference between parents of obese adolescents and parents of normal-weight adolescents regarding openness and problems in communication. As a protective factor against psychosocial risk, in both the samples the relationship with the mother arises as relevant, but, for the nonobese adolescents, both support and communication with this parent were important, whereas for the obese adolescents only support seemed to be really important. The results are discussed with respect to this approach which considered the family as the unit of analysis both from a theoretical and a methodological point of view.

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