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Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Oct;34(10):1515-23. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2010.156. Epub 2010 Aug 31.

Infant temperament and eating style predict change in standardized weight status and obesity risk at 6 years of age.

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Department of Psychiatry, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



Little research has addressed the relationships among infant temperament, eating styles and obesity risk. To address this gap, we tested whether infant temperament and eating patterns at the age of 1 year are associated with a greater increase in standardized weight status, and greater obesity risk at 6 years of age.


A secondary, prospective analysis of the Colorado Adoption Study was conducted. The main predictor variables were infant temperament (that is, emotionality, activity, attention span-persistence, reaction to food and soothability) and eating domains (that is, reactivity to food, predictable appetite and distractability at mealtime) at the age of 1 year, along with the body mass index (BMI) of biological mothers. The outcome measures were child weight and height (length) assessed at ages 1 through 6 years, from which weight-for-length and BMI were computed along with the standardized indexes (z-scores) and percentiles. Overweight/obesity status was computed at each year as well.


A primarily White sample of 262 boys and 225 girls, assessed at ages 1 through 6 years, along with their mothers.


Among boys, greater attention span-persistence was associated with reduced standardized weight status gain (β=-0.15, P<0.05) and reduced obesity risk (odds ratio (OR)=0.46, P=0.06). Among girls, greater soothability and negative reaction to food were associated with greater standardized weight status gain (β=0.19, P<0.01; and β=0.16, P<0.05, respectively) and increased obesity risk (OR=3.72, P=0.03; and OR=2.81, P=0.08, respectively). Biological mothers' obesity status predicted obesity risk in boys (OR=3.07, P=0.01) and girls (OR=5.94, P=0.03).


Male infants with less attention span, and female infants with greater soothability or a more negative food reaction, showed greater increases in standardized weight and were more likely to be overweight/obese at the age of 6 years. The role of infant temperament in pediatric obesity onset warrants greater research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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