The assessment of eating behaviour in children who are obese: a psychological approach. A position paper from the European childhood obesity group

Obes Facts. 2014;7(3):153-64. doi: 10.1159/000362391. Epub 2014 May 10.


Objective: This paper introduces health professionals to the different psychological models thought to influence eating behaviour in the absence of hunger in children who are obese and to propose a method of assessing these behaviours in practice.

Methods: Clinical researchers from the European Childhood Obesity Group (ECOG) adopted an evidence-based approach to examine the literature concerning the assessment of eating behaviour in children who are obese. Studies published in English were filtered out of the medical and psychological literature from 1960 to the present, and the resulting bibliography was searched for relevant articles. Key themes from the current evidence were compiled and classified according to the underpinning psychological models. Based on the current evidence and the authors' combined clinical experience, a three-staged approach to assessment was agreed by consensus.

Results: Valid and reliable tools for assessing and monitoring each of the three identified models (Dietary Restraint Theory, Emotional Eating and the Diathesis-Stress Model) are suggested for use in clinical practice, and the ECOG three-staged approach to assessing eating behaviours in the absence of hunger is described.

Conclusions: This paper presents practical guidance on how to assess eating behaviour in the absence of hunger in children who are clinically obese and suggests a focus for future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Child
  • Craving
  • Emotions
  • Family / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology*
  • Satiation