Objective Few longitudinal studies have investigated the role of temperament traits on weight and eating problems thus far. We investigated whether temperament in preadolescence influences body weight and the development of eating pathology in adolescence and young adulthood.
Method This study used data from TRAILS (Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey), a Dutch community cohort study (N = 2,230) from preadolescence into adulthood. At age 11, the temperament dimensions negative affectivity and effortful control were measured with the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire-Revised. Body mass index (BMI) was measured at all assessment waves. At age 19, the prevalence of eating disorders was investigated by two-stage screening including interviews by eating disorder experts. At age 22 and 26, the Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale was used to assess the level of eating pathology.
Results Higher negative affectivity in preadolescence was associated with higher BMI and eating pathology in young adulthood. Lower effortful control in preadolescence was found to be a risk factor for the development of obesity in young adulthood. No association was found between effortful control in preadolescence and eating pathology in later life.
Discussion Both negative affectivity and effortful control play a role in the development of weight or eating problems during adolescence.