Self-Regulation Failure, Disordered Eating and Overweight in Youth

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Self-regulation failure has been implicated in the development of overweight and obesity in youth through its effects on overeating and weight gain. Little is known, however, about the extent to which self-regulatory capacity in early childhood predicts weight gain over time, nor do we understand the ways in which self-regulatory capacity interacts with environmental characteristics to influence adverse weight and eating outcomes in adolescents. The proposed study takes an integrated, biopsychosocial approach to examining an under-researched, potential mechanism for the development of overweight in youth: self-regulation failure. Using data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), we propose to assess self-regulation failure as a behavioral marker for disordered eating behavior and weight gain over a 12-year period from early childhood through adolescence. The SECCYD is a multi-site, longitudinal study, which examines early childcare experiences on children's development from birth through age 15. Data were collected on 1364 families at study entry, and approximately 1000 children have been followed through age 15. In addition to measures on children's self-regulatory capacity, temperament, disordered eating, and body composition, a number of family and neighborhood environmental factors have been collected over the duration of the study. We will examine the influence of stressful family environments (e.g., harsh parenting practices, family chaos, and stressful life events), and neighborhood environments (e.g., safety and violence) on children's weight gain over time, and on disordered eating and body composition outcomes at age 15. In addition, we will examine the extent to which children's self-regulatory capacity, and individual characteristics including race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status moderate these relations. While several studies have outlined various behavioral and environmental influences on children's eating behavior and weight gain, the proposed study will examine (1) the domain specificity of self-regulation in youth, (2) self-regulation failure as an underlying mechanism for problematic eating behaviors and the development of obesity from early childhood through adolescence, and (3) the ways in which individual child characteristics and objectively measured self regulatory capacity may moderate the effects of early childhood stressful experiences on later outcomes of disordered eating and overweight. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Obesity is a significant health problem that substantially raises the risk of associated morbidities such as hypertension, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In addition to the physiological correlates of obesity, findings from several studies provide evidence for psychological correlates including depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation. The findings from the proposed study may provide information that informs the design of programs to reduce the burden of obesity in children, and its related consequences.
Effective start/end date8/15/097/31/10


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $74,000.00
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $73,260.00


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