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Ties Between Self-Regulation, Obesity in Children Differ by Sex

Effects of obesity prevention efforts targeting toddler self-regulation may differ by gender

child eating an ice-cream

MONDAY, July 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- The association between self-regulation and the risk of obesity differs between boys and girls, according to a study published online July 16 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Sarah E. Anderson, Ph.D., from The Ohio State University in Columbus, and Robert C. Whitaker, M.D., from Temple University in Philadelphia, used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (born in 2001 and followed until 2006 to 2007) to examine how different levels of toddler self-regulation are associated with the prevalence of obesity at kindergarten age.

Among the 6,400 children analyzed, the researchers found that self-regulation scores were lower for boys than for girls. The lowest self-regulation quartile was made up of more boys than girls (weighted percentages, 66.5 versus 33.5 percent). At 5.5 years, the prevalence of obesity was 19.2 percent among boys and 16.5 percent among girls. For boys and girls, this pattern of association between toddler self-regulation and obesity at 5.5 years was different (P = 0.008 for interaction). For the lowest to highest quartiles of self-regulation among boys, the adjusted prevalence of obesity was 19.7, 18.3, 20.3, and 15.9 percent, compared to 17.0, 10.3, 10.7, and 15.0 percent among girls.

"Obesity prevention efforts aimed at improving self-regulation may have different results for girls and boys," the authors write.

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