Appetite regulation in early childhood: the impact of parenting behaviours and child temperament

The ability to appropriately regulate appetite appears to be intrinsic from birth. However as children develop and become socialised, problems with the control and regulation of appetite are commonplace, as evidenced by the high prevalence of overweight and obesity in later childhood and adulthood. This chapter explores different theories of appetite regulation and discusses the various eating behaviour traits which have been identified during early childhood. Although there are several aspects of parenting behaviour that may contribute to a child's appetite regulation, or lack of regulation, this chapter focuses on the impact of the feeding practices that parents employ, and the feeding environment that parents provide when parenting their children, in influencing children's eating behaviours, appetite and weight. This chapter also explores the literature on child temperament and its contribution to eating behaviour and appetite regulation. Although the literatures on parenting influence and child temperament have been poorly integrated in relation to early child eating, some speculative suggestions are made about how these two aspects of behaviour may interact together to influence the regulation and control of appetite in young children.