, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 473-483
Date: 14 Sep 2007

Impulsivity in overweight children

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This study investigates whether or not obese children have a stronger tendency to act on impulse than normal weight children, taking into account the multidimensionality and complexity of the impulsivity construct.


A performance based test (Matching Familiar Figure Test, MFFT), a child interview and questionnaire, and parental reports were obtained from 56 overweight children and 53 normal weight children aged 10–18 years.


Overweight children responded in a more impulsive way on the MFFT (P < .01). On the child questionnaire, overweight boys reported more problems with focussing attention (P < .05) and both overweight boys and girls reported being worse at shifting their attention compared with normal weight children (P < .05). In particular, overweight boys showed more impulsivity (P < .05), hyperactivity (P < .01), and inattention symptoms (P < .001) as measured via the clinical interview. Parents of overweight children reported an equal amount of impulsivity and hyperactivity symptoms as parents of normal weight children, but scored their children lower on the Conscientiousness personality dimension (P < .01).


A subgroup of overweight children appears to have a stronger tendency to act on impulse than normal weight children, and demonstrated an impulsivity prone personality. Hence, overweight children should be screened for impulse control deficiencies. More research is needed to clear out the robustness of gender differences, the existence of a specific personality profile and possibly common underlying mechanisms of childhood obesity and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.