New approaches to children’s eating habits

Self-regulation, such as being able to control impulses or emotions and delay gratification, is important for children’s healthy development and adjustment.

This concept is examined by a range of experts in a new collection of articles examining the role of emotions, behaviour and appetite self-regulation in managing overweight and obesity in children.

Flinders University Emeritus Professor Alan Russell, from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, with his daughter Dr Georgie Russell, a Flinders alumna and Deakin University lecturer, have edited the new e-book  Conceptualising and measuring appetite self-regulation and its development in infancy and childhood (Frontiers in Nutrition) DOI: 10.3389/978-2-83250-098-9.

Professor Russell says a better grasp of appetite self-regulation (ASR), and how to measure it, will be useful in designing preventive interventions to promote healthy weight gain in children.

“We invited leading scholars of ASR to contribute manuscripts on their current conceptualisation and measurement of ASR. Their work highlights perspectives and variables found in studying ASR in children – including the reasons for  snacking or eating a lot  in the absence of hunger, and studies focusing on individual or person-centred characteristics and behaviours, family environment, and other influences on children’s eating and weight.

“The amount of snack foods children consume has been shown to be related to their present weight or subsequent weight gain. However, interpretation of the levels of snack consumption is unclear: Is it mainly related to the child’s abilities to inhibit or control their impulses when presented with the tasty snacks, for example?

“Future research also should focus on different measurement approaches to capture whether children’s eating behaviours are stable and operate more like personality traits; or whether they are mainly influenced by the food environment,” says Professor Russell.

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College of Education Psychology and Social Work