Self-regulatory processes in early childhood as predictors of Hispanic children's BMI z-scores during the elementary school years: Differences by acculturation and gender

Appetite. 2022 Jan 1;168:105778. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105778. Epub 2021 Oct 29.


Over the last decade, longitudinal research has shown that children's general, top-down self-regulation during early childhood is negatively associated with children's weight status in elementary school. The samples in these previous studies have been primarily White, and no study to date has examined this issue in a sample of Hispanic children from low-income families-a population at high risk for childhood obesity. The present study followed 130 Hispanic children over a time period of three to just under five years, examining the degree to which multiple measures of general, top-down self-regulation, along with a measure of appetite regulation (eating in the absence of hunger), predicted children's BMI z-scores in the early elementary school years. Results showed that children's ability to delay gratification in the preschool years was negatively associated with later BMI z-scores and that children's eating in the absence of hunger was positively associated. In separate models by gender, these relationships were significant only for girls. Moreover, analyses run separately for children of mothers low or high on acculturation showed that the relationship between delay of gratification and later BMI z-scores was significant only for children whose mothers were low on acculturation. Possible socialization and environmental factors contributing to these findings are considered.

Keywords: Appetite self-regulation; Child weight; Delay of gratification; Gender differences; Hispanic; Low income.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Pediatric Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Schools