To determine whether more self-controlled children are protected from weight gain as they enter adolescence.
Prospective, longitudinal study.
Ten sites across the United States from 1991 to 2007.
The 844 children in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development birth cohort who had height and weight information at 15 years of age in 2006.
A composite measure of self-control was created from mother, father, and teacher-reported ratings using items from the Social Skills Rating System.
Overweight status at 15 years of age.
Approximately one-third of the sample (n = 262) was overweight at 15 years of age. Compared with their nonoverweight peers, overweight adolescents aged 15 years were about a half standard deviation (SD) lower in self-control at 9 years of age (unstandardized difference, 0.15; pooled SD, 0.29; P < .001). Children rated higher by their parents and teachers in self-control at 9 years of age were less likely to be overweight at 15 years (relative risk, 0.74; 95% confidence interval, 0.56-0.98), controlling for overweight status at 10 years of age, pubertal development, age, intelligence quotient, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and maternal overweight status.
More self-controlled boys and girls are less likely to become overweight as they enter adolescence. The ability to control impulses and delay gratification enables children to maintain a healthy weight, even in today's obesogenic environment.