Cognitive, emotional, and behavioral contributors to early childhood weight status

Amy C Gross, Alexander M. Kaizer, David M Vock, Sana Siddiqui, Claudia K Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Pediatric obesity is a serious public health concern affecting almost 16% of two- to five-year-olds. Prior research has not sufficiently addressed how various factors combine to contribute to the heterogeneous condition of obesity. The goal of this study was to assess multiple individual factors to determine how they collectively contribute to weight status in young children, as this information could lead to tailored interventions. This was a cross-sectional, population-based study of three- to five-year-olds. Child height and weight were measured. Parents completed a demographic survey and validated questionnaires regarding these child characteristics: internalizing and externalizing behaviors, sleep problems, executive functions, and food approach and food avoid behaviors. Data for 154 participants (mean age: 4.4 ± 0.8 years; mean body mass index-z:.28 ± 1.0; 50% male) were analyzed using linear and logistic regression and a stepwise regression procedure. In the stepwise selection procedure for the binary outcome of obese/overweight versus normal weight, food avoid (p =.151), food approach (p =.017), and the White demographic variable (p =.117) were identified as important predictors. In conclusion, when considering various cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors, only food approach and food avoid eating behaviors predicted weight status in young children, suggesting prevention and intervention efforts should specifically address these aspects in young children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-391
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Child Health Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/ or publication of this article: This study was supported by an internal grant from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Pediatrics and UL1TR002494 from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • Early childhood
  • eating behavior
  • executive function
  • externalizing behavior
  • internalizing behavior
  • pediatric obesity


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