Child Maltreatment and the Adolescent Patient With Severe Obesity: Implications for Clinical Care

J Pediatr Psychol. 2015 Aug;40(7):640-8. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsv011. Epub 2015 Mar 15.


Objective: To characterize prevalence and correlates of child maltreatment (CM) in a clinical sample of adolescents with severe obesity.

Method: Multicenter baseline data from 139 adolescents undergoing weight loss surgery (Mage = 16.9; 79.9% female, 66.2% White; Mbody mass index [BMI] = 51.5 kg/m(2)) and 83 nonsurgical comparisons (Mage = 16.1; 81.9% female, 54.2% White; MBMI = 46.9 kg/m(2)) documented self-reported CM (Childhood Trauma Questionnaire) and associations with psychopathology, quality of life, self-esteem and body image, high-risk behaviors, and family dysfunction.

Results: CM prevalence (females: 29%; males: 12%) was similar to national adolescent base rates. Emotional abuse was most prevalent. One in 10 females reported sexual abuse. For females, CM rates were higher in comparisons, yet correlates were similar for both cohorts: greater psychopathology, substance use, and family dysfunction, and lower quality of life.

Conclusion: While a minority of adolescents with severe obesity reported a CM history, they carry greater psychosocial burden into the clinical setting.

Keywords: abuse; adolescents; bariatric surgery; neglect; severe obesity.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity, Morbid / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Morbid / psychology*
  • Obesity, Morbid / therapy
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / therapy
  • Prevalence