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Keywords:

  • bariatric surgery;
  • binge eating;
  • eating disorders;
  • childhood abuse;
  • neglect

Abstract

Objective: To examine rates of self-reported childhood maltreatment in extremely obese bariatric surgery candidates and to explore associations with sex, eating disorder features, and psychological functioning.

Research Methods and Procedures: Three hundred forty (58 men and 282 women) extremely obese consecutive candidates for gastric bypass surgery completed a questionnaire battery. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire was given to assess childhood maltreatment.

Results: Overall, 69% of patients self-reported childhood maltreatment: 46% reported emotional abuse, 29% reported physical abuse, 32% reported sexual abuse, 49% reported emotional neglect, and 32% reported physical neglect. Except for higher rates of emotional abuse reported by women, different forms of maltreatment did not differ significantly by sex. Different forms of maltreatment were generally not associated with binge eating, current BMI, or eating disorder features. At the Bonferonni-corrected significance level, emotional abuse was associated with higher eating concerns and body dissatisfaction, and emotional neglect was associated with higher eating concerns. In terms of psychological functioning, at the Bonferonni-corrected level, emotional abuse and emotional neglect were associated with higher depression and lower self-esteem, and physical abuse was associated with higher depression.

Discussion: Extremely obese bariatric surgery candidates reported rates of maltreatment comparable with those reported by clinical groups and roughly two to three times higher than normative community samples. Reported experiences of maltreatment differed little by sex and were generally not significantly associated with current BMI, binge eating, or eating disorder features. In contrast, maltreatment—notably emotional abuse and neglect—were significantly associated with higher depression and lower self-esteem.