Happy families can help child fight obesity

An estimated 18 percent of adolescents in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Robert Hampson, associate professor of psychology in Dedman College, wants to know what role families can play in reducing that rate.

In collaboration with The Cooper Institute and the Family Studies Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and with funding from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, Hampson has been comparing two group interventions for obese girls and their families.

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After 16 weeks, neither group saw significant changes in body-mass index, but both reduced daily caloric intake.

“We learned that education does help and that mothers in particular were glad to be involved in their daughters’ treatment,” says Hampson, who is also director of graduate studies. “Perhaps in the long run, the change in eating behavior will prove more important than short-term body-mass index loss.”

The study showed, as hypothesized, that family competence, by such measures as healthy emotional interaction and teamwork, had some impact on body-mass index. There were, however, unexpected differences across racial groups: White girls in the highest-functioning families lost the most weight, while African-Americans gained, regardless.

“Going forward, we’ll look at tailoring the intervention to the racial group, and some families will need more individualized help,” Hampson says.

Related links:
Robert Hampson
Heather Kitzman
SMU Department of Psychology
The Cooper Institute
Family Studies Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center
Hogg Foundation for Mental Health
Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences

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