The association between mothers’ psychopathology, childrens’ competences and psychological well-being in obese children

  • B. Roth
  • S. Munsch
  • A. Meyer
  • E. Isler
  • S. Schneider
Original Research Paper


BACKGROUND: The prevalence of childhood obesity is rapidly increasing, and many obese children suffer from emotional and behavior problems and mental disorders. Associations with social stigmatization of obesity, maternal psychopathology, socioeconomic status (SES) and resilience factors are discussed. OBJECTIVE: We hypothesize maternal psychopathology to have an impact on the psychological well-being of an obese child. We further hypothesize that competence factors within the child are important key factors that influence the way a child deals with the psychological burden of obesity. METHOD: A referred clinical sample of 59 obese children with their mothers was assessed using a structured clinical interview for DSM-IV diagnosis and questionnaires for child and maternal psychopathology, SES, body mass index (BMI), and percent overweight. Correlations, hierarchical linear and logistic regression models were used to analyze associations between mothers and child and the impact of potential predictors. RESULTS: Mental disorders were found in 37.3% of the obese children in our sample. Maternal anxiety predicted the mother reported child’s internalizing problems as well as the child’s depression and anxiety selfreport scores. The mental disorder status of the mother predicted the child’s internalizing problems, and maternal binge eating disorder (BED) had an impact on the mental disorder of the child. If the child’s total competences were included in the hierarchical regression model they predicted the child’s outcome in all three subscales of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), thereby reducing the effect of maternal anxiety to influencing the child’s depression score only. Neither SES nor the child’s percent overweight accounted for the child’s wellbeing. CONCLUSIONS: Although maternal psychopathology and diagnosis of mental disorder had some impact on the psychological well-being of the child, the child’s competences showed a significant negative association with the problem scales. More research on parental and children’s skills and competences will highlight the complex interaction of childhood obesity, comorbidity of mental disorders, and resilience factors and will lead to additional approaches for intervention.

Key words

Familial transmission childhood obesity comorbidity of mental disorder resilience 


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Copyright information

© Editrice Kurtis 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Roth
    • 1
  • S. Munsch
    • 2
  • A. Meyer
    • 2
  • E. Isler
    • 1
  • S. Schneider
    • 2
  1. 1.Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Service of Basel-LandKantonsspital BruderholzBruderholzSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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