Obesity Management in Families of Mentally Ill Youth


The article by Bourassa et al. (2017) aims at analyzing the causes of obesity in children with mental and behavioral problems and finding solutions to these causes. The authors employ a qualitative research design to conduct interviews with children and their caregivers. The findings indicate the major barriers to obesity management as well as facilitators of this process. The study is a valuable source for researchers and practitioners since it suggests a viable solution to childhood obesity.


Childhood obesity is one of the acutest problems of the modern healthcare system. Researchers note that obesity can lead to serious mental complications in children (Morrison, Shin, Tarnopolsky, & Taylor, 2015). The article by Bourassa et al. (2017) investigates the relationship between obesity and mental disorders along with the ways of managing the identified problem. The critique of the article includes the overview of research questions, literature used by the authors, design, and procedures, and data analysis and presentation. The conclusion contains the discussion of the overall assessment of the study.

Evaluating Research Methods

The Problem

The problem of the study is not stated clearly, but it can be deduced easily. The problem is the assessment of the factors affecting obesity management in families of children and young people suffering from behavioral and emotional disorders (Bourassa et al., 2017). The issue bears high practical importance since it allows tracing the barriers to managing obesity in youth with mental disorders. Moreover, scholars also investigate the aspects that promote such management, which has practical value for families and healthcare workers.

Since the study is qualitative, there is no hypothesis in it. The purpose of the study is to outline the intervention that could be the most effective for the selected population group. The authors do not provide definitions of the key terms, but they include an extensive discussion of such concepts as obesity and behavioral disorders. Other key concepts, such as “barriers” and “interventions,” also are reflected in the discussion of literature and the description of the study.

The Review of Literature

The sources cited by Bourassa et al. (2017) are pertinent to the study. The list of references includes about forty sources, the majority of which are comparatively recent. Most of the consulted sources were published 5-10 years before Bourassa et al.’s (2017) research was done. Also, the authors reference publications dated 2003, which is nearly 15 years before their study was conducted. Finally, Bourassa et al. (2017) cite research that was performed in 1967 and 1981, respectively. However, while these sources seem to be outdated, Bourassa et al. (2017) justify their presence in the analysis.

The review of literature is sufficient, and it cannot be considered too broad or too narrow. The authors cover the main aspects related to the purpose of their study, as reflected in previous scholarly articles. There is no evidence of bias in the literature review, it is divided into logical parts depending on the key terms discussed. The review of literature offers an insight into the research and prepares the audience for the understanding of key facts and notions.

The Design and Procedures

The research methodology employed by Bourassa et al. (2017) is a semi-structured qualitative interview. Though the study is original, the authors employed the methodology offered by Merriam (1998). There were 56 participants: 21 young people suffering from obesity and mental and behavioral disorders, 20 parents or caregivers, and 15 mental health providers from community mental health centers. The eligible age was 8-17 for children and at least 18 for parents and mental health providers.

No pilot study was conducted by Bourassa et al. (2017). The sampling was performed due to the eligibility criteria. Youths, parents, and mental health providers were selected from the population of the Rocky Mountain West.

Apart from age criteria, the youth participants were required the following: being diagnosed with an emotional or behavioral disorder or both and having a minimum of one psychotropic medication prescribed to them. Also, eligibility criteria involved having the status of overweight gainer after the initiation of psychotropic medication, receiving services at a mental health center, and the ability to give informed consent or assent. In case the last criteria could not be met, it was required that a parent or a caregiver provide consent.

The first step in the procedure structure was recruiting the participants. To do so, mental health providers reviewed releases and brochures covering the identified health problem during the visits. Upon receiving the agreement of parents and caregivers to participate in the project, mental health providers checked whether all eligibility criteria were met (Bourassa et al., 2017). Next, respondents completed interviews to evaluate the barriers and facilitators to the management of obesity. Since the study was qualitative, no variables or measurement tools were employed.

Data Analysis and Presentation

The findings of the study supported its purpose since they indicated the challenges and facilitators to obesity management experienced in the families whose children had mental or behavioral disorders. The data were analyzed with the help of descriptive analyses with SPSS, version 21 (Bourassa et al., 2017). A three-stage procedure was employed to perform the qualitative analysis of results:

  1. open-ending coding,
  2. axial coding,
  3. selective coding.

Interviews were conducted until the attainment of the saturation point, which was determined in a saturation table. The inter-rater reliability was measured through a percentage agreement approach.

When discussing the weaknesses of their research, Bourassa et al. (2017) mention that their study is limited by the family characteristics of the participants. Bourassa et al. (2017) note that families that have different sociodemographic and treatment features could give quite dissimilar results. Another weakness identified by the authors is that health aspects reported by parents and caregivers may not coincide with those of providers operating in other environments or with different populations. Because the families were referred by their mental health providers, they are not likely to be representative of the general population that receives less professional support and help.

Conclusions and Implications

The study conducted by Bourassa et al. (2017) has considerable value for the analysis of obesity management in families whose children suffer from behavioral or mental disorders. The conclusions of the study are related to the original purpose since the scholars were able to identify the barriers and facilitators to obesity management: psychiatric symptoms and social support, respectively. The authors also discussed the implications which are reflected in the future intervention components for the target population.

The results and conclusions will affect obese children with mental and behavioral disorders, their parents, and caregivers. The authors recommend creating an intervention that would exploit the findings of their study. Taking into consideration the results, it seems that such an approach could help to eliminate the problem of childhood obesity among individuals with mental health issues. Overall, the study and the article may be considered as a successful insight into one of the acutest burdens of the modern healthcare system.


Bourassa, K. A., McKibbin, C. L., Hartung, C. M., Bartholomew, K. L., Lee, A. A., Stevens, A. E., … Andren, A. K. (2017). Barriers and facilitators of obesity management in families of youth with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Health Psychology, 22(11), 1469-1479.

Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education: Revised and expanded from “Case study research in education.” San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Morrison, K. M., Shin, S., Tarnopolsky, M., & Taylor, V. H. (2015). Association of depression & health related quality of life with body composition in children and youth with obesity. Journal of Affective Disorders, 172, 18-23.

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