British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Behaviour, Appetite and Obesity

The Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire and BMI in adolescents: results from the Québec Family Study

A. R. Gallanta1, A. Tremblaya1, L. Pérussea1, C. Boucharda2, J.-P. Desprésa1a3 and V. Drapeaua4 c1

a1 Division of Kinesiology, Department of Preventive Medicine, Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada G1V 0A6

a2 Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA, USA

a3 Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada

a4 Department of Physical Education (bureau 2214), Université Laval, 2300 rue de la Terrasse, PEPS, Québec, QC, Canada G1V 0A6


Eating behaviour traits are associated with body weight variations in adults. The Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ) measures cognitive restraint, disinhibition and hunger, as well as their corresponding subscales, e.g. rigid and flexible control. The TFEQ has not been widely used in adolescents to investigate eating behaviour traits associated with body weight. The aim of the present study was to assess whether eating behaviour traits were associated with BMI in male and female adolescents. Sixty adolescents (thirty females and thirty males; mean age 15·0 (sd 2·4) years) from the Québec Family Study completed the TFEQ and 3 d dietary records. There were no sex differences in the TFEQ scores. Rigid control, disinhibition and emotional susceptibility (to overeat) were positively related to BMI z-scores for the entire sample (r 0·3, P < 0·05). There was a positive relationship between BMI z-scores and rigid control (r 0·39, P < 0·05) in females, while BMI z-scores were positively related to emotional susceptibility (r 0·42, P < 0·02) and disinhibition (r 0·41, P < 0·03) in males. Adolescents characterised by both high disinhibition and high rigid control had significantly higher BMI z-scores than those by both low disinhibition and low rigid control. There were no significant differences in BMI z-scores between the flexible control categories. Dietary macronutrient content was not consistently related to eating behaviour traits. These results show that the eating behaviour traits of disinhibition and rigid control are independently related to BMI z-scores in this group of adolescents.

(Received December 10 2009)

(Revised March 16 2010)

(Accepted March 30 2010)

(Online publication May 07 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Vicky Drapeau, fax +1 418 656 3020, email


Abbreviation: TFEQ, Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire