Weight development and feeding in early childhood : the role of temperament and behavior problems
Appears in the following Collection
- Psykologisk institutt 
AbstractIn recent decades, childhood obesity has been greatly increasing worldwide. The rapid increase in obesity rates among children is alarming because of the serious consequences for health. Besides demographic and genetic factors, in older children and adults there is considerable evidence that temperament, personality traits, and psychopathology play a role in the etiology of obesity. Yet, in younger children, evidence is scarce. The aim of this dissertation is therefore to investigate the role of child temperament and behavior problems in weight development and feeding in early childhood, namely, from birth to age 3 years. For this purpose, I used data from the nationwide Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). Sample sizes varied between approximately 11,000 and 30,000 mother-child dyads for the respective sub-studies.
For the studied age span, I did not find much support for an association between child psychological factors on the one hand and feeding and weight development on the other hand. Still, whether or not a child was fully breastfed for 6 months was associated with a more difficult temperament. Moreover, the Internalizing subscale “somatic complaints” was negatively correlated with the BMI at child age 18 months. The validity of the latter association is doubtful, however.
This study fills a gap in prior knowledge, as it examined the relationship between temperament and behavior problems with weight development and breastfeeding over a previously unaddressed time period, i.e., from birth onwards in a large-scale population study with a multiwave longitudinal design. It appears that the children in the present study are still too young, in that a causal process between child psychological factors and weight has not yet had enough time to unfold. Further research should follow up the sample in order to shed more light on that process. Furthermore, future studies should include additional important variables, such as other nutrition, number of children in the family, parental feeding practices, and parental characteristics.
LIST OF PAPERS
Paper I: Niegel, S., Ystrom, E., & Vollrath, M. E. (2007). Is difficult temperament related to overweight and rapid early weight gain in infants? A prospective cohort study. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 28, 462-466.
Paper II: Niegel, S., Ystrom, E., Hagtvet, K. A., & Vollrath, M. E. (2008). Difficult temperament, breastfeeding, and their mutual prospective effects: The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 29, 458-462.
Paper III: Niegel, S., Hagtvet, K., & Vollrath, M. E. (2009). A prospective study of weight development and behavior problems in toddlers: The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. Manuscript submitted for publication.