All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Paula Chandler-Laney

Advisory Committee Members

Heather Austin

Edwin Cook

Christina Rodriguez

David Schwebel

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences


Childhood obesity is a nationwide epidemic associated with serious metabolic and mental health issues, as well as increased risk for obesity in adulthood. Many factors influence the development of obesity in childhood, including individual factors such as deficits in self-regulatory behaviors. This study examined associations among aspects of self-regulation and eating behaviors of young children. We hypothesized that 1) children with lower attention scores would be rated as having greater food responsiveness (FR) and poorer satiety responsiveness (SR); 2) children with poor inhibitory control would be rated as having greater FR; 3) children with poorer emotion regulation abilities would be rated as engaging in more emotional overeating (EO). Participants were 2.5-year-old children and their mothers (N=43). Children were observed during four behavioral tasks to examine attention, inhibitory control, and emotion regulation. Mothers completed questionnaires to assess child temperament and eating behavior (i.e., Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire, Short-Form and Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire). Simple Pearson correlations and multiple linear regression modeling with interactions and adjustment for covariates were used to examine these associations. Results showed a statistically significant inverse linear relationship between attention to video and SR when PPVT was low (-.04 + .02, p < .05), but not when PPVT was high (.010 + .02, p > .05), and no association of attention with FR. In other words, for children with a low PPVT raw score, poor attention was associated with greater response to satiety cues as compared to children with high attention. This finding was opposite to that hypothesized. Data from this cohort did not support the hypothesis that inhibitory control was associated with FR. Finally, children with fewer escape attempts from the high chair had higher EO scores (β = -.34, p < .05), which was contrary to a priori hypothesis. These results extend the literature by showing poor attention is associated with SR in very young children. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms that underlie this association and to clarify the role of other self-regulatory behaviors in eating and weight gain among very young children.



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