Attachment Strategies and Neuroendocrine Biomarkers in Obese Children

Inês Pinto, Simon Wilkinson, Daniel Virella, Marta Alves, Conceição Calhau, Rui Coelho

Abstract


Introduction: Quality of the parent-infant relationship influences the mechanisms of development of the child’s physiological stress regulation. This study explored associations between attachment strategies and both cortisol and thyroid stimulating hormone, hypothesized to be respectively a potential mediator and a potential intervening variable of the mother-child relationship in obese children.
Material and Methods: A sample of 83 obese children (46 boys), aged 10.9 (1.8) years was recruited from a child obesity clinic. Obesity was defined by body mass index percentile adjusted for age and sex. Metabolic biomarkers were measured by routine methods. Attachment strategies were assessed with self and parent-report questionnaires. Family functioning was assessed with parent-reported questionnaires (FACES-III). Multivariate linear regression analyses were performed.
Results: Type A, avoidant attachment strategies, had significant positive association with thyroid stimulating hormone levels and negative association with cortisol levels (R2 = 0.352). Type B, secure attachment strategies, had significant positive associations with both hypothyroidism and body mass index percentile (R2 = 0.541). “Insecure attachment” (types A and C combined) strategies showed some evidence of positive association with thyroid stimulating hormone (R2 = 0.250).
Discussion: These findings suggest that there may be commonalities in the regulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axes. Processes involved in development of the type A attachment strategy appear to be associated with effects on the regulatory mechanisms of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
Conclusions: In obese children, different attachment strategies are associated with diverse metabolic profiles. How this may contribute to developing differentiated treatment approaches remains to be explored.


Keywords


Child; Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System; Object Attachment; Pediatric Obesity; Pituitary-Adrenal System; Stress, Psychological; Thyrotropin.

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