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Where are family theories in family-based obesity treatment?: conceptualizing the study of families in pediatric weight management

Abstract

Family-based approaches to pediatric obesity treatment are considered the ‘gold-standard,’ and are recommended for facilitating behavior change to improve child weight status and health. If family-based approaches are to be truly rooted in the family, clinicians and researchers must consider family process and function in designing effective interventions. To bring a better understanding of family complexities to family-based treatment, two relevant reviews were conducted and are presented: (1) a review of prominent and established theories of the family that may provide a more comprehensive and in-depth approach for addressing pediatric obesity; and (2) a systematic review of the literature to identify the use of prominent family theories in pediatric obesity research, which found little use of theories in intervention studies. Overlapping concepts across theories include: families are a system, with interdependence of units; the idea that families are goal-directed and seek balance; and the physical and social environment imposes demands on families. Family-focused theories provide valuable insight into the complexities of families. Increased use of these theories in both research and practice may identify key leverage points in family process and function to prevent the development of or more effectively treat obesity. The field of family studies provides an innovative approach to the difficult problem of pediatric obesity, building on the long-established approach of family-based treatment.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported in part by a grant from The Duke Endowment No. 6110-SP and NICHD/NIH Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award K23 HD061597 (JAS), and by a grant from The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Foundation (MBI). We would like to thank Karen Klein (Research Support Core, Office of Research, Wake Forest School of Medicine) for providing helpful edits of this manuscript.

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Skelton, J., Buehler, C., Irby, M. et al. Where are family theories in family-based obesity treatment?: conceptualizing the study of families in pediatric weight management. Int J Obes 36, 891–900 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2012.56

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Keywords

  • pediatric
  • theory
  • family
  • treatment

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