This study examined the association of two distinct self-regulation constructs, effortful control and dysregulation, with weight-related behaviors in adolescents and tested whether these effects were mediated by self-efficacy variables.
A school-based survey was conducted with 1771 adolescents from 11 public schools in the Bronx, New York. Self-regulation was assessed by multiple indicators and defined as two latent constructs. Dependent variables included fruit/vegetable intake, intake of snack/junk food, frequency of physical activity, and time spent in sedentary behaviors. Structural equation modeling examined the relation of effortful control and dysregulation to lifestyle behaviors, with self-efficacy variables as possible mediators.
Study results showed that effortful control had a positive indirect effect on fruit and vegetable intake, mediated by self-efficacy, as well as a direct effect. Effortful control also had a positive indirect effect on physical activity, mediated by self-efficacy. Dysregulation had direct effects on intake of junk food/snacks and time spent in sedentary behaviors.
These findings indicate that self-regulation characteristics are related to diet and physical activity and that some of these effects are mediated by self-efficacy. Different effects were noted for the two domains of self-regulation. Prevention researchers should consider including self-regulation processes in programs to improve health behaviors in adolescents.