Self-regulation and household routines at age three and obesity at age eleven: longitudinal analysis of the UK Millennium Cohort Study

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To examine, in a population-based cohort of 3-year-old children, the association between self-regulation and exposure to the household routines of regular bedtime, regular mealtime and limits on watching television/video, and to determine whether self-regulation and these routines predict the risk of obesity at age 11.

METHODS:

Analyses included 10 955 children in the nationally representative UK Millennium Cohort Study. When children were age 3, parents reported whether children had a regular bedtime and mealtime, and the amount of television/video watched. Emotional and cognitive self-regulation at age 3 were assessed by parent-report with the Child Social Behaviour Questionnaire. Children's height and weight were measured at age 11 and obesity was defined using the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) criteria.

RESULTS:

At age 3, 41% of children always had a regular bedtime, 47% always had a regular mealtime and 23% were limited to ≤ 1 h television/video daily. At age 11, 6.2% of children were obese. All three household routines were significantly associated with better emotional self-regulation, but not better cognitive self-regulation. In a multi-variable logistic regression model, including emotional and cognitive self-regulation, all routines and controlling for sociodemographic covariates, a 1-unit difference in emotional self-regulation at age 3 was associated with an OR (95% CI) for obesity of 1.38 (1.11, 1.71) at age 11, and inconsistent bedtimes with an OR (95% CI) for obesity of 1.87 (1.39, 2.51) at age 11. There was no evidence that emotional self-regulation mediated the relationship between regular bedtimes and later obesity. Cognitive self-regulation was not associated with later obesity.

CONCLUSIONS:

Three-year-old children who had regular bedtimes, mealtimes and limits on their television/video time had better emotional self-regulation. Lack of a regular bedtime and poorer emotional self-regulation at age 3 were independent predictors of obesity at age 11.

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