The Distinction of ‘Psychosomatogenic Family Types’ Based on Parents’ Self Reported Questionnaire Information: A Cluster Analysis

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The theory of ‘psychosomatogenic family types’ is often used in treatment of somatizing adolescents. This study investigated the validity of distinguishing ‘psychosomatogenic family types’ based on parents’ self-reported family features. The study included a Flemish general population sample of 12-year olds (n = 1428). We performed cluster analysis on 3 variables concerning parents’ self-reported problems in family functioning. The distinguished clusters were examined for differences in marital problems, parental emotional problems, professional help for family members, demographics, and adolescents’ somatization. Results showed the existence of 5 family types: ‘chaotic family functioning,’ ‘average amount of family functioning problems,’ ‘few family functioning problems,’ ‘high amount of support and communication problems,’ and ‘high amount of sense of security problems’ clusters. Membership of the ‘chaotic family functioning’ and ‘average amount of family functioning problems’ cluster was significantly associated with higher levels of somatization, compared with ‘few family functioning problems’ cluster membership. Among additional variables, only marital and parental emotional problems distinguished somatization relevant from non relevant clusters: parents in ‘average amount of family functioning problems’ and ‘chaotic family functioning’ clusters reported higher problems. The data showed that ‘apparently perfect’ or ‘enmeshed’ patterns of family functioning may not be assessed by means of parent report as adopted in this study. In addition, not only adolescents from ‘extreme’ types of family functioning may suffer from somatization. Further, professionals should be careful assuming that families in which parents report average to high amounts of family functioning problems also show different demographic characteristics.

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