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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e50642. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050642. Epub 2012 Dec 5.

Associations of children's appetitive traits with weight and dietary behaviours in the context of general parenting.

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  • 1IVO Addiction Research Institute, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



Individual variations in child weight can be explained by genetic and behavioural susceptibility to obesity. Behavioural susceptibility can be expressed in appetite-related traits, e.g. food responsiveness. Research into such behavioural factors is important, as it can provide starting points for (preventive) interventions.


To examine associations of children's appetitive traits with weight and with fruit, snack and sugar-sweetened beverage intake, and to examine whether parenting style interacts with appetite in determining child weight/intake.


Data were used from 1275 children participating in the INPACT study in 2009-2010, with a mean age of 9 years in 2009. Their height and weight were measured to calculate body mass index (BMI). Parents completed a questionnaire to measure children's appetitive traits, children's dietary intake and parenting style. Child BMI z-scores, fruit, snack and sugar-sweetened beverage intake were regressed on appetitive traits. Moderation by parenting style was tested by adding interaction terms to the regression analyses.


Food-approaching appetitive traits were positively, and food-avoidant appetitive traits were negatively related to child BMI z-scores and to child fruit intake. There were no or less consistent associations for snack and sugar-sweetened beverage intake. Authoritative parenting voided the negative association between food fussiness and fruit intake, while neglecting parenting strengthened the positive association between food-approaching appetitive traits and weight.


Early assessment of appetitive traits could be used to identify children at risk for overweight. As parenting style can moderate the associations between appetitive traits and weight/intake in a favourable way, parents are a promising target group for preventive interventions aimed at influencing the effect of appetitive traits on children.

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