A randomized, comparative pilot trial of family-based interpersonal psychotherapy for reducing psychosocial symptoms, disordered-eating, and excess weight gain in at-risk preadolescents with loss-of-control-eating.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

Preadolescent loss-of-control-eating (LOC-eating) is a risk factor for excess weight gain and binge-eating-disorder. We evaluated feasibility and acceptability of a preventive family-based interpersonal psychotherapy (FB-IPT) program. FB-IPT was compared to family-based health education (FB-HE) to evaluate changes in children's psychosocial functioning, LOC-eating, and body mass.

METHOD

A randomized, controlled pilot trial was conducted with 29 children, 8 to 13 years who had overweight/obesity and LOC-eating. Youth-parent dyads were randomized to 12-week FB-IPT (n = 15) or FB-HE (n = 14) and evaluated at post-treatment, six-months, and one-year. Changes in child psychosocial functioning, LOC-eating, BMI, and adiposity by dual-energy-X-ray-absorptiometry were assessed. Missing follow-up data were multiply imputed.

RESULTS

FB-IPT feasibility and acceptability were indicated by good attendance (83%) and perceived benefits to social interactions and eating. Follow-up assessments were completed by 73% FB-IPT and 86% FB-HE at post-treatment, 60% and 64% at six-months, and 47% and 57% at one-year. At post-treatment, children in FB-IPT reported greater decreases in depression (95% CI -7.23, -2.01, Cohen's d = 1.23) and anxiety (95% CI -6.08, -0.70, Cohen's d = .79) and less odds of LOC-eating (95% CI -3.93, -0.03, Cohen's d = .38) than FB-HE. At six-months, children in FB-IPT had greater reductions in disordered-eating attitudes (95% CI -0.72, -0.05, Cohen's d = .66) and at one-year, tended to have greater decreases in depressive symptoms (95% CI -8.82, 0.44, Cohen's d = .69) than FB-HE. There was no difference in BMI gain between the groups.

DISCUSSION

Family-based approaches that address interpersonal and emotional underpinnings of LOC-eating in preadolescents with overweight/obesity show preliminary promise, particularly for reducing internalizing symptoms. Whether observed psychological benefits translate into sustained prevention of disordered-eating or excess weight gain requires further study.

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