Early Predictors of Eating Problems in Preadolescence: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study

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Anja Munkholm, Else Marie Olsen, Charlotte Ulrikka Rask, Lars Clemmensen, Martin K. Rimvall, Pia Jeppesen, Nadia Micali, Anne Mette Skovgaard

Purpose: The epidemiology of childhood eating problems is far from being fully described. The present study aims to explore early predictors of eating behavior problems in preadolescence.

Methods: The study sample comprised 1,939 children from the birth cohort study, the Copenhagen Child Cohort (CCC2000). Logistic regression models were used to investigate associations among infancy health, developmental and relational factors, maternal mental health problems, socioeconomic factors, parental reported eating behavior patterns in preschool age and eating behavior problems in preadolescence.

Results: A number of factors expressing socioeconomic disadvantage across childhood were associated with an increased risk of eating behavior problems at age 11–12 years. In addition, overeating patterns at age 5–7 years predicted restrained eating in preadolescence (odds ratio [OR] = 2.77; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.13–6.77; p = .03), with overweight at age 11–12 years and low annual household income as strong explanatory factors (OR = 4.79; 95% CI = 2.81–8.17; p < .0001 and OR = 2.06; 95% CI = 1.19–3.58; p = .02, respectively). No significant associations between perinatal, early child- and relational factors, or maternal mental disorder and eating behavior problems in preadolescence were found.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that overeating at age 5–7 years is prospectively associated with restrained eating in preadolescence, with contemporaneous socioeconomic disadvantages and overweight as strong explanatory factors. Our findings might reflect successful public health interventions toward childhood obesity or might reflect a developmental course of problematic eating fluctuating between over- and undereating. Future studies should focus on the possible pathways from overeating to restrained eating and more severe eating pathology, including possible negative side effects of otherwise successful interventions aimed at reducing childhood obesity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Volume58
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)533-542
Number of pages10
ISSN1054-139X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

    Research areas

  • Eating behavior problems, Predictors, Preadolescence, The Copenhagen Child Cohort (CCC2000), Longitudinal

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