Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #315973

Research Project: Nutritional Metabolism in Mothers, Infants, and Children

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Executive functioning, emotion regulation, eating self-regulation, and weight status in low-income preschool children: How do they relate?

Author
item Hughes, Sheryl - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item Power, Thomas - Washington State University
item O'connor, Teresia - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item Fisher, Jennfer - Temple University

Submitted to: Appetite
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/12/2015
Publication Date: 1/14/2015
Citation: Hughes, S.O., Power, T.G., O'Connor, T.M., Fisher, J.O. 2015. Executive functioning, emotion regulation, eating self-regulation, and weight status in low-income preschool children: How do they relate? Appetite. 89:1-9.

Interpretive Summary: Most researchers agree that a major factor contributing to high levels of childhood obesity is the environment to which children are exposed on a daily basis. Because some children manage to maintain a healthy weight in the current "obesogenic" environment, a number of childhood obesity researchers have turned their attention to the role of children's self-regulation in the development of childhood obesity. Because non-eating self-regulation is concurrently related to weight status in studies of older children, and because longitudinal studies show that non-eating self-regulation in infancy and the preschool years predicts the development of later obesity, it is likely that the early years are an important period in development of the non-eating self-regulation skills that may help prevent future obesity. By better understanding the complex relationships between child self-regulation across eating and non-eating domains, eating behavior, and weight status, we can better know how to help families to create appropriate eating environments that may potentially reduce the rates of overweight and obesity in children.

Technical Abstract: The purpose of the present study was to examine relationships between child eating self-regulation, child non-eating self-regulation, and child BMIz in a low-income sample of Hispanic families with preschoolers. The eating in the absence of hunger task as well as parent-report of child satiety responsiveness and food responsiveness were used to assess child eating self- Regulation. Two laboratory tasks assessing executive functioning, a parent questionnaire assessing child effortful control (a temperament dimension related to executive functioning), and the delay of gratification and gift delay tasks assessing child emotion regulation were used to assess child non-eating self- egulation. Bivariate correlations were run among all variables in the study. Hierarchical linear regression analyses assessed: (1) child eating self-Regulation associations with the demographic, executive functioning, effortful control, and emotion regulation measures; and (2) child BMI z-score associations with executive functioning, effortful control, emotion regulation measures, and eating self-Regulation measures. Within child eating self-Regulation, only the two parent-report measures were related. Low to moderate positive correlations were found between measures of executive functioning, effortful control, and emotion regulation. Only three relationships were found between child eating self-Regulation and other forms of child self-regulation: eating in the absence of hunger was positively associated with delay of gratification, and poor regulation on the gift delay task was associated positively with maternal reports of food responsiveness and negatively with parent-reports of satiety responsiveness. Regression analyses showed that child eating self-regulation was associated with child BMIz but other forms of child self-Regulation were not. Implications for understanding the role of self-regulation in the development of child obesity are discussed.