Behaviour Change

Standard Papers

Childhood Obesity and Impulsivity: An Investigation With Performance-Based Measures

Sandra Verbekena1 c1, Caroline Braeta2, Line Clausa3, Chantal Nederkoorna4 and Jaap Oosterlaana5

a1 Ghent University, Belgium.

a2 Ghent University, Belgium.

a3 Ghent University, Belgium.

a4 Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

a5 Amsterdam University, the Netherlands.


The study investigated whether obese children are more impulsive than lean children, taking into account the multidimensionality of the construct. Responses of 41 overweight children were compared to those of 40 lean children. The Stop Task, Circle Drawing Task and Opposite Worlds Task were administered to measure executive inhibitory control, and the Maudsley Index of Childhood Delay Aversion and the Door Opening Task were administered to measure motivational inhibitory control. On the Stop Task, the overweight children showed less inhibitory control. On the Opposite Worlds task, we found no significant difference, whereas on the Circle Drawing Task an unexpected group difference was found. Although on the Door Opening Task the overweight children showed greater reward sensitivity, they were equally motivated to wait on the Maudsley Index of Childhood Delay. We conclude that the findings were different depending on the measure used, but that they suggest that overweight children can be characterised by a decrease in executive and motivational inhibitory control.

Key Words:

  • obesity;
  • children;
  • impulsivity;
  • performance-based measures


c1 Address for correspondence: Sandra Verbeken, Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.