Could your children's eating habits be a reflection of their personalities?
A new study finds a link between the two, but researchers say it's not clear exactly how they influence each other.
They found that slow eaters are less likely to be extroverted and impulsive, and that youngsters who are highly responsive to external food cues -- the urge to eat when food is seen, smelled or tasted -- have higher rates of frustration, discomfort and difficulty self-soothing.
Another finding was that children who respond well to feeling full tend to have more self-control.
The study included 28 people who signed up for a family intervention program to reduce eating speed among 4- to 8-year-old children.
This research is important because faster eating and higher responsiveness to food cues have been connected to obesity risk in children, said study co-author Myles Faith, professor of counseling, school and educational psychology at the University of Buffalo's Graduate School of Education.
"This study established relationships between temperament and eating patterns in children; however, there is still the question of chicken-and-egg and which comes first?" Faith said in a university news release. "Research that follows families over time is needed to untangle these developmental pathways."
"Temperament is linked to many child developmental and behavioral outcomes, yet despite emerging evidence, few studies have examined its relationship with pediatric obesity," said co-lead investigator Dr. Robert Berkowitz, director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Research Program at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
More research is needed to understand the role parents play in their children's temperament and eating behavior, said study co-lead investigator and first author Alyssa Button, a doctoral candidate in the University of Buffalo's Graduate School of Education, and senior research support specialist in the department of pediatrics in the university's School of Medicine and Biomedical Science.
"Parents may use food to soothe temperamental children and ease negative emotions," Button said in the release.
"Future research should examine the different ways parents feed their children in response to their temperament, as well as explore whether the relationship between temperament and eating behaviors is a two-way street," she noted. "Could the habit of eating slower, over time, lead to lower impulsiveness?"
The study was published in the June issue of the journal Pediatric Obesity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers resources on child nutrition.
SOURCE: University at Buffalo, news release, July 7, 2021