Obesity and interpersonal problems: an analysis with the interpersonal circumplex

Clin Psychol Psychother. 2012 Sep;19(5):390-8. doi: 10.1002/cpp.753. Epub 2011 May 2.


This study examines the interpersonal problems profiles of obese individuals by cluster analysing the interpersonal problems circumplex scores of participants. The Inventory of Interpersonal Problems-Short Circumplex (IIP-32) was completed by 368 treatment-seeking obese individuals. These data were cluster analysed, and groups of obese subjects defined by varying interpersonal problems were compared with regard to psychological distress, self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, quality of life and binge behaviours. Cluster analyses of the IIP-32 resulted in four clusters, which occupied two quadrants of the interpersonal circumplex. Several differences in body mass index, psychological distress, quality of life and body dissatisfaction emerged across the four interpersonal groups. Although obese individuals reported elevated interpersonal distress, these subjects are not homogeneous with regard to interpersonal problems. Psychiatric co-morbidity and psychological distress may explain these interpersonal differences. These findings underscore the importance for clinicians to assess carefully patients' interpersonal functioning, especially with respect to treatment-seeking obese patients.

Key practitioner message: Research has not consistently specified the types of interpersonal problems most frequently experienced by treatment-seeking obese individuals. Most obese individuals share a friendly-dominant interpersonal style. This research supports the importance of measuring and targeting interpersonal variables in the design and evaluation of obesity treatment programmes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / rehabilitation
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Personality Inventory
  • Personality*
  • Self Concept
  • Sociometric Techniques
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology