To determine whether more self-controlled children are protected from weight gain as they enter adolescence.
Prospective, longitudinal study.
Ten sites across the United States from 1991-2007.
The 844 children in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development birth cohort who had height and weight information at age 15 (in 2006).
A composite measure of self-control was created from mother, father, and teacher-report ratings using items from the Social Skills Rating System.
Main Outcome Measure
Overweight status at age 15 years.
Approximately one-third of the sample (n = 262) was overweight at age 15. Compared to their non-overweight peers, overweight adolescents at age 15 were about a half-standard deviation lower in self-control at age 9 (unstandardized difference = 0.15, pooled SD = 0.29, P < .001). Children rated higher by their parents and teachers in self-control at age 9 were less likely to be overweight at age 15 (RR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.56-0.98), controlling for overweight status at age 10, pubertal development, age, IQ, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and maternal overweight status.
More self-controlled boys and girls are less likely to become overweight as they enter adolescence. The ability to control impulses and delay gratification enables children to maintain a healthy weight even in today's obesogenic environment.