Research Topic

Eating Behavior Research in Children’s and Adolescents' Naturalistic Environment

About this Research Topic

Children and adolescents’ eating behavior is determined by individual differences in feelings of hunger and satiety, responsiveness to food, food choices and preferences, and mood state, among other factors. Although these are often biologically-based processes, they are shaped by elements related to the social and physical environment, such as the availability of food (food environment), parental (feeding) behaviors, family context, and other socio-cultural factors. Where healthy eating is associated with mental and physical growth, unhealthy eating is related to adverse outcomes (e.g., obesity, eating disorders). Past studies on eating behavior in children and adolescents have often relied on traditional assessment approaches that may incur biases. These include single-occasion retrospective self- or parent-report assessments, which may be prone to recall and social desirability biases; and laboratory studies, which lack external/ecological validity. In particular, developmental factors may limit the accuracy of children’s recall and their comfort in laboratory settings, marking these traditional assessment techniques as especially problematic for younger populations.

Since eating occurs on a daily basis and is determined by environmental/contextual factors, studying eating behavior in children and adolescent’s naturalistic environment is warranted. Naturalistic ‘real-time’ approaches, such as ecological momentary assessment (but also other daily life sampling approaches such as ambulatory assessment and experience sampling methods), may offer new insights into predictors or correlates of eating behavior in children and adolescents. These ‘real-time’ approaches provide several benefits over traditional approaches including (1) Enhanced ecological validity, (2) Focus on current or very recent momentary states or behavior (reduced reliance on retrospective recall), (3) Allowance for strategic selection of states and behaviors included in analyses, based on proximity to other constructs of interest or time of recording (event-based, time-based, randomly prompted), (4) Availability of multiple assessments, which allow for examination of how behaviors vary prospectively over time and across situations (5) Potential employment of a wide variety of media (paper diary, electronic diary, smartphone/telephone) to increase applicability to multiple research contexts.

The present Research Topic aims to unite publications from expert scientists in the field of eating behaviors. Different types of articles may be submitted pending theoretical, clinical, and/or methodological relevance. The expected themes are (but not limited to):
Using naturalistic approaches
→ to assess individual differences in eating behaviors/symptoms.
→ to examine within-subject changes in eating behavior/symptoms over time (e.g., for understanding clinical disorders and outcomes).
→ to study within-subject changes in eating behavior/symptoms across situations/contexts (e.g., to increase insight into contextual associations or interaction between events or experiences in time).
→ to examine temporal sequences of situational antecedents or consequences of eating behavior/symptoms (e.g., evaluating dynamic interactions among processes over time to increase insight in theories of eating pathology).
→ to increase understanding in how affect, cognition, and behavior interact and unfold over time in order to increase insight into the efficacy of therapeutic/clinical interventions (e.g., monitoring treatment progress and identify processes and mediators of psychotherapy-induced change).

These questions can be studied in children and adolescents of the general population, in at-risk or in clinical samples with eating problems/disorders or obesity.


Keywords: Eating behavior, eating disorders, obesity, children and adolescents, Ecological Momentary Assessment


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Children and adolescents’ eating behavior is determined by individual differences in feelings of hunger and satiety, responsiveness to food, food choices and preferences, and mood state, among other factors. Although these are often biologically-based processes, they are shaped by elements related to the social and physical environment, such as the availability of food (food environment), parental (feeding) behaviors, family context, and other socio-cultural factors. Where healthy eating is associated with mental and physical growth, unhealthy eating is related to adverse outcomes (e.g., obesity, eating disorders). Past studies on eating behavior in children and adolescents have often relied on traditional assessment approaches that may incur biases. These include single-occasion retrospective self- or parent-report assessments, which may be prone to recall and social desirability biases; and laboratory studies, which lack external/ecological validity. In particular, developmental factors may limit the accuracy of children’s recall and their comfort in laboratory settings, marking these traditional assessment techniques as especially problematic for younger populations.

Since eating occurs on a daily basis and is determined by environmental/contextual factors, studying eating behavior in children and adolescent’s naturalistic environment is warranted. Naturalistic ‘real-time’ approaches, such as ecological momentary assessment (but also other daily life sampling approaches such as ambulatory assessment and experience sampling methods), may offer new insights into predictors or correlates of eating behavior in children and adolescents. These ‘real-time’ approaches provide several benefits over traditional approaches including (1) Enhanced ecological validity, (2) Focus on current or very recent momentary states or behavior (reduced reliance on retrospective recall), (3) Allowance for strategic selection of states and behaviors included in analyses, based on proximity to other constructs of interest or time of recording (event-based, time-based, randomly prompted), (4) Availability of multiple assessments, which allow for examination of how behaviors vary prospectively over time and across situations (5) Potential employment of a wide variety of media (paper diary, electronic diary, smartphone/telephone) to increase applicability to multiple research contexts.

The present Research Topic aims to unite publications from expert scientists in the field of eating behaviors. Different types of articles may be submitted pending theoretical, clinical, and/or methodological relevance. The expected themes are (but not limited to):
Using naturalistic approaches
→ to assess individual differences in eating behaviors/symptoms.
→ to examine within-subject changes in eating behavior/symptoms over time (e.g., for understanding clinical disorders and outcomes).
→ to study within-subject changes in eating behavior/symptoms across situations/contexts (e.g., to increase insight into contextual associations or interaction between events or experiences in time).
→ to examine temporal sequences of situational antecedents or consequences of eating behavior/symptoms (e.g., evaluating dynamic interactions among processes over time to increase insight in theories of eating pathology).
→ to increase understanding in how affect, cognition, and behavior interact and unfold over time in order to increase insight into the efficacy of therapeutic/clinical interventions (e.g., monitoring treatment progress and identify processes and mediators of psychotherapy-induced change).

These questions can be studied in children and adolescents of the general population, in at-risk or in clinical samples with eating problems/disorders or obesity.


Keywords: Eating behavior, eating disorders, obesity, children and adolescents, Ecological Momentary Assessment


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 March 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 March 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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