The relationship between executive functioning and weight loss and maintenance in children and parents participating in family-based treatment for childhood obesity

Publication date: June 2018
Source:Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 105
Author(s): Dawn M. Eichen, Brittany E. Matheson, June Liang, David R. Strong, Kyung Rhee, Kerri N. Boutelle
We examined the relationship between executive function and weight loss among children (8–12 years) and parents enrolled in a behavioral weight-loss program. 150 overweight/obese children and their parents participated in a 6-month family-based weight-loss intervention and completed baseline (month 0), post-treatment (month 6) and 18-month follow-up assessments (month 24), which included Digit Span (DS), Stop Signal Task (SST), and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST). Anthropometrics were additionally measured at mid-treatment (month 3) and 6-month follow-up (month 12). Children with more baseline WCST perseverative errors regained more weight (p = .002) at 18-month follow-up. Change in child BMIz was not associated with change in child executive function (p > .05) or parent executive function (p > .05). Among parents, baseline measure of DS-backward (p < .001) and post-treatment changes in WCST perseverative errors (p < .001) were associated with post-treatment changes in parent BMI. SST was not related to parent or child weight loss. Thus, children’s baseline set-shifting was associated with weight regain during follow-up whereas changes in parent set-shifting was associated with changes in parent weight. Future research is needed to examine the relationship between executive function and weight loss and how this translates to intervention success for both overweight/obese children and participating parents.