Momentary associations between positive affect dimensions and dysregulated eating during puberty in a diverse sample of youth with overweight/obesity

Int J Eat Disord. 2020 Oct;53(10):1667-1677. doi: 10.1002/eat.23342. Epub 2020 Jul 24.


Objective: The link between dysregulated positive affect and binge-eating behavior in youth with obesity is poorly understood. In addition, it is unclear how putative associations differ across developmental periods of rapid biological and emotional change, such as puberty, and in racial and ethnic minority youth, who are more likely to be overweight but are underrepresented in the literature.

Method: This study used a 2-week ecological momentary assessment protocol to examine independent and interactive effects of positive affect intensity/instability, and pubertal stage on two components of binge-eating behavior, loss of control eating (LOCE), and overeating.

Results: Participants were 38 youth with overweight/obesity (ages 8-14 years; 78% African American/Hispanic). Positive affect instability was calculated using probability of acute change (PAC), representing the likelihood of extreme affective changes, and mean squared successive difference (MSSD), representing the average change in affect over successive recordings. There were no main effects of positive affect intensity on LOCE or overeating, but positive affect instability was negatively associated with overeating severity using both MSSD (p = .005) and PAC metrics (p = .001). However, moderation analyses including interactions with pubertal status revealed more extreme changes in positive affect (i.e., higher PAC) were related to greater overeating (p = .001) and LOCE severity (p = .043) in mid-late pubertal youth but not in pre-early pubertal youth.

Discussion: Pubertal status may influence the association between disruptions in positive affect and dysregulated eating in youth, and positive affect instability may be important to consider in order to understand the emotional correlates of binge eating in youth with overweight/obesity.

Keywords: binge eating; ecological momentary assessment; ethnic and racial minority; loss of control eating; obesity; overeating; positive affect; puberty; youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / psychology*
  • Male
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Overweight / psychology*