Examination of the interpersonal model with adolescent military dependents at high risk for adult obesity

Abigail E. Pine, Lisa M. Shank, Natasha L. Burke, M. K. Higgins Neyland, Natasha A. Schvey, Mary Quattlebaum, William Leu, Denise E. Wilfley, Mark Stephens, Sarah Jorgensen, Cara H. Olsen, Tracy Sbrocco, Jack A. Yanovski, David A. Klein, Jeffrey Quinlan, Marian Tanofsky-Kraff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Adolescent military dependents may be at higher risk for psychosocial stressors and disordered eating compared with civilian youths, but the mechanisms underlying these risks are unclear. Interpersonal theory proposes that difficult relationships lead to negative affect, thereby promoting emotional eating, which has been linked to and predictive of disordered eating. The interpersonal model may have particular relevance for understanding disordered eating among adolescent military dependents, given the unique stressors related to their parents' careers. This study aimed to examine the premise of the interpersonal model (that negative emotions mediate the association between multiple aspects of social functioning and emotional eating) among a cohort of adolescent military dependents. Methods: Military dependents (N=136; 56% female, mean6SD age=1462 years, body mass index adjusted for age and sex [BMIz]=2.060.4) at risk for adult obesity and binge eating disorder, as indicated by reported loss-of-control eating and/or anxiety symptoms, were assessed prior to participation in a study of excess weight-gain prevention. Bootstrapped mediation analyses were conducted to examine depressive symptoms as a potential mediator of the relationship between social functioning and emotional eating. Analyses were adjusted for age, sex, race-ethnicity, BMIz, and presence of reported loss-of-control eating and anxiety. Results: Depressive symptoms were a significant mediator of the relationship between multiple domains of social functioning, including loneliness, social adjustment related to family and friends, attachment to father and peers, and emotional eating (p,0.05). Conclusions: The interpersonal model may contribute to our understanding of excess weight gain and binge eating disorder among adolescent military dependents. Prospective data are needed to determine the utility of interpersonal theory in predicting treatment response and outcomes among this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychotherapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


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