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

Appetite. 2015 Jun;89:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.01.009. Epub 2015 Jan 14.


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-regulation. 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.

Keywords: Child eating self-regulation; Child weight status; Delay of gratification; Emotional regulation; Executive functioning; Hispanic preschoolers.

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delay Discounting
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Executive Function*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology*
  • Poverty
  • Satiety Response
  • Self-Control*
  • Temperament