Coping, personality and the development of a central pattern of body fat from youth into young adulthood: The Amsterdam Growth and Health Study

F J van Lenthe, J Snel, J W Twisk, W van Mechelen, H C Kemper

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OBJECTIVE: It has been suggested that coping behaviour, in particular a defeat reaction to stress, is a determinant of the central pattern of body fat. To verify this hypothesis, this study investigated if coping behaviour, and associated personality traits, are associated with a central pattern of body fat or total body fatness in a healthy population of males (n=83) and females (n=98) early in life.

METHODS: Problem-focused, emotion-focused and type A behaviour were measured at the mean ages of 21 y and 27 y. Personality traits (inadequacy, social inadequacy, dominance, rigidity and debilitating anxiety), a central pattern of body fat (subscapular/triceps, (S/T) ratio) and total body fatness (sum of four skinfolds (SSF): biceps, triceps, subscapular, suprailiac) were measured six times between the ages of 13-27 y.

RESULTS: In both genders, no association was found between either coping strategy and a central pattern of body fat or total body fatness. In males, type A behaviour was significantly negatively correlated with the S/T ratio (r = -0.27, P=0.01) after adjustment for total body fatness, at the mean age of 27 y. In a longitudinal analysis, adjusted for total body fatness, dominance and rigidity were negatively associated with the S/T ratio (beta = -0.09, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) (-0.17; -0.00) and beta = -0.11, 95% CI (-.19; -0.02), respectively) between the ages of 13-21 y in males. These associations of type A behaviour, dominance and rigidity, with a central pattern of body fat, were weaker and did not reach statistical significance with total body fatness.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study justify further research on the association between coping behaviour, personality and the development of a central pattern of body fat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1998


  • Adaptation, Psychological/physiology
  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Netherlands
  • Personality
  • international

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