Preschool Executive Control, Temperament, and Adolescent Dietary Behaviors

Katherine M. Kidwell, Tiffany D. James, Rebecca L. Brock, Amy Lazarus Yaroch, Jennie L. Hill, Jennifer Mize Nelson, W. Alex Mason, Kimberly Andrews Espy, Timothy D. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Child temperament styles characterized by increased emotionality or pleasure seeking may increase risk for less healthful eating patterns, while strong executive control (EC) may be protective. The interaction of these characteristics with longitudinal outcomes has not yet been examined. Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the association of preschool temperament and EC, as well as their interaction with adolescent eating. Methods: Preschoolers (N = 313) were recruited into a longitudinal study, with behavioral measurement of EC at age 5.25 years, temperament assessed multiple times across preschool, and eating outcomes assessed in adolescence (mean age = 15.34 years). Results: Separate latent moderated structural equation models demonstrated that weaker EC was associated with eating less healthful foods, including high sugar foods, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), and convenience foods (p <. 05). In the moderation models, negative affectivity temperament was correlated with eating less healthful foods, high sugar foods, and SSBs (p <. 05). Children lower in surgency/extraversion temperament were more likely to drink SSBs. There was an interaction between temperament and EC, such that children high in negative affectivity with weaker EC were particularly more likely to consume less healthful foods, high sugar foods, and SSBs (p <. 05). There was no interaction of surgency with EC and food consumption. Conclusions: Child characteristics measured early in development were associated with later adolescent eating behaviors. Adequate EC could be necessary to counteract the drive toward eating associated with temperaments high in negative affectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-268
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • Adolescence
  • Diet
  • Executive control
  • Preschool
  • Temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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