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Kids' personalities may affect their eating speeds, study finds

Experts worry that these eating habits will impact kids’ health

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Photo (c) d3sign - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Buffalo explored how kids’ personalities can affect their eating habits. 

The researchers learned that children who are more impulsive and extroverted are also more likely to be faster eaters. These findings are important because eating faster may increase the likelihood of obesity and other health concerns. 

“Temperament is linked to many child developmental and behavioral outcomes, yet despite emerging evidence, few studies have examined its relationship with pediatric obesity,” said researcher Robert Berkowitz. 

Monitoring children’s eating speed

For the study, the researchers surveyed nearly 30 families involved in a program geared toward helping kids maintain healthy eating habits. All of the children were between the ages of four and eight, and their parents answered questions about their eating habits and their personalities. 

The team learned that introverted and cautious children were more likely to eat slower, while the opposite was also true -- extroverted and impulsive children were more likely to eat faster. Because the children involved in the study were already at an increased risk of obesity, these findings are important when thinking about how eating speed can further increase the risk of childhood obesity and other health concerns. 

The researchers also found that being able to tell when you’re full can impact eating speed. Kids are more likely to have self-control and stop eating when they have a better sense of knowing when they’re full. This is also important because it can help enforce healthy eating habits and promote better overall health outcomes. 

“Parents may use food to soothe temperamental children and ease negative emotions,” said researcher Alyssa Button. “Future research should examine the different ways parents feed their children in response to their temperament, as well as explore whether the relationship between temperament and eating behaviors is a two-way street. Could the habit of eating slower, over time, lead to lower impulsiveness?” 

Moving forward, the researchers hope to do more work in this area, as knowing more about how personalities can impact kids’ relationships with food can help promote better health outcomes. 

“This study established relationships between temperament and eating patterns in children; however, there is still the question of chicken-and-egg and which comes first?” said researcher Myles Faith, Ph.D. “Research that follows families over time is needed to untangle these developmental pathways.”

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