Emotion Dysregulation and Loss-of-Control Eating in Children and Adolescents

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Abstract

Objective: To examine the associations among self-reported loss-of-control (LOC) eating, emotion dysregulation, body mass, and objective energy intake among youth. Emotion dysregulation may be 1 individual factor that promotes excess energy intake and increases in body mass among youth with LOC eating. Method: Children and adolescents (N = 230; 8 to 17 years) enrolled in a nonintervention study completed a structured interview to determine the presence or absence of self-reported LOC eating. Children’s emotion dysregulation was assessed via parent-report with the Child Behavior Checklist. Youth also completed 2 test meals to capture “binge” and “normal” eating. Body composition was examined using air displacement plethysmography. Results: After controlling for relevant covariates, youth with self-reported LOC eating had higher parent-reported emotion dysregulation than those without LOC. Parent-reported emotion dysregulation was also associated with greater observed energy intake (after accounting for body mass), as well as higher fat mass. Emotion dysregulation also moderated associations between LOC status/gender and body mass variables; among youth with self-reported LOC eating and girls, those with high parent-described emotion dysregulation (vs. low) had significantly higher fat mass and BMIz. Conclusions: Data from the current study suggest that emotion dysregulation may play a role in energy intake and obesity, particularly among youth with self-reported LOC eating and girls. Additional studies are needed to identify the prospective mechanisms linking poor emotion regulation and LOC eating. These mechanisms, in turn, may inform future interventions targeting excess energy intake and obesity in pediatric samples.

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