There is a need in the literature to investigate the cognitive components that play a role in obesity, particularly in early childhood. The current study investigated executive function (EF) in healthy-weight (n = 63) and overweight/obese (n = 20) 4- to 5-year-old children. No significant correlations were found between children's body mass index (BMI) and cool (non-reward based) EF. However, a significant interaction demonstrated that children who were overweight/obese made more delayed/larger food choices for themselves than healthy-weight children but made similar choices for others and did not wait longer than healthy-weight children when enduring a delay of gratification task. Findings suggest that overweight/obese preschool children do not have general deficits in EF, but may place greater value on receiving larger food rewards, even at the cost of a delay. Individual differences in delay behavior may shed light on the development of self-regulation patterns that contribute to disordered eating behavior and overweight/obesity.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health [ RO1HD051495 ] to SMC.
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- Childhood obesity
- Delay of gratification
- Executive function