Personality profile of obese children and adolescents: relation to body mass index and metabolic complications

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Abstract

Background

Personality traits can affect eating behaviors, the development of obesity, and obesity treatment failure. Because of the scarcity of research on the relationship between personality traits and childhood obesity and its importance in obesity treatment outcome, the current study aimed to assess the personality profile of obese children and adolescents, investigate the relationship between patterns of temperament and character as well as psychopathology in obese youths and explore the relationship between personality traits and severity of childhood obesity and its metabolic complications independent of the impact of psychopathology.

Methods

After exclusion of children with comorbid psychiatric disorders, 40 obese children were enrolled from the Pediatrics Obesity Clinic, Ain Shams University. They were compared with a matched control group of nonobese children (n=20). The Junior Temperament and Character Inventory was used to assess the personality profile, and Child Behavioral Checklist was used to assess psychopathology.

Results

Obese children were found to have significantly higher novelty seeking and harm avoidance behavior compared with nonobese controls. Among obese children, high novelty seeking was associated with externalizing problems, and low self-transcendence was associated with internalizing problems. Higher BMI was associated with higher novelty seeking and lower persistence. Personality traits related to metabolic complications of obesity were persistence, self-transcendence, and self-directedness.

Conclusion

Personality traits may contribute to health outcome through their association with obesity and its progression. These data underscore the future potential usefulness of personality assessment in obesity management and suggest the use of cognitive behavioral therapy targeting these personality traits to achieve better treatment outcome.

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