Associations between child temperament, maternal feeding practices and child body mass index during the preschool years: a systematic review of the literature

Obes Rev. 2014 Jan;15(1):9-18. doi: 10.1111/obr.12066. Epub 2013 Aug 19.


It is a research priority to identify modifiable risk factors to improve the effectiveness of childhood obesity prevention strategies. Research, however, has largely overlooked the role of child temperament and personality implicated in obesogenic risk factors such as maternal feeding and body mass index (BMI) of preschoolers. A systematic review of relevant literature was conducted to investigate the associations between child temperament, child personality, maternal feeding and BMI and/or weight gain in infants and preschoolers; 18 papers were included in the review. The findings revealed an association between the temperament traits of poor self-regulation, distress to limitations, low and high soothability, low negative affectivity and higher BMI in infants and preschool-aged children. Temperament traits difficult, distress to limitations, surgency/extraversion and emotionality were significantly associated with weight gain rates in infants. The results also suggested that child temperament was associated with maternal feeding behaviours that have been shown to influence childhood overweight and obesity, such as using restrictive feeding practices with children perceived as having poor self-regulation and feeding potentially obesogenic food and drinks to infants who are more externalizing. Interestingly, no studies to date have evaluated the association between child personality and BMI/weight gain in infants and preschoolers. There is a clear need for further research into the association of child temperament and obesogenic risk factors in preschool-aged children.

Keywords: Maternal practices; obesity; preschool; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations* / psychology
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Temperament*