Journal of Student Nursing Research


Objective. To examine the current evidence on the use of family therapy as a treatment for obesity in children and adolescents.

Research Design and Methods. CINAHL, Medline, PubMed, PsycInfo, and the Cochrane Library were searched for studies containing keywords: family therapy and weight loss and family therapy and obesity. Articles were limited to primary research articles from 1990 to the present pertaining specifically to children and/or adolescents.

Results. Eighteen articles met the inclusion criteria. All articles found family therapy to be an effective means of treating obesity in children and adolescents as demonstrated through significant reductions in overweight measuring variables following treatment. However, the behavioral and educational components of family therapy varied among studies. Additionally the designs of most studies were poor and failed to control for important variables. Therefore, focusing on the specific variables of family therapy, parental weight loss, adherence, maintenance, and additions to family therapy allowed for accurate conclusions to be drawn.

Conclusions. Although family therapy is shown to be a successful treatment for obesity in children and adolescents, no specific method of treatment proves to be better than the others. Future research needs to build upon current knowledge of family therapy by including control groups receiving alternate treatments or standards of care. Despite the need for more research, the success of family therapy in existing studies suggests that health care providers should utilize families in the treatment of pediatric obesity.