Dimensions of impulsive behavior in obese, overweight, and healthy-weight adolescents

S. A. Fields, M. Sabet, B. Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Impulsivity is a multidimensional construct that has been linked with obesity. To explore profiles of impulsive behavior potentially associated with adolescent weight status, we measured multiple dimensions of impulsivity (delay discounting, sustained attention, and behavioral disinhibition) using laboratory behavioral tasks in a sample of adolescents (N= 61). For comparison purposes, we also assessed self-reported impulsive behavior with the BIS-11-A. Participants differed in body mass index: obese (n= 21), overweight (n= 20), and healthy-weight (n= 20). Obese and overweight adolescents were more impulsive on the measure of delay discounting than healthy-weight adolescents, but no difference was found between obese and overweight adolescents on this measure. Obese adolescents also were more impulsive on the measure of inattention compared to overweight and healthy-weight adolescents, who did not differ on this measure. Behavioral disinhibition had no association with weight status, nor did the self-report measure of impulsivity. The additive pattern of these findings for certain laboratory behavioral measures indicates that obese adolescents are more impulsive than their healthy-weight counterparts on two dimensions of behavior, whereas overweight adolescents are more impulsive on only one dimension. Consequently, adolescents who are impulsive on two dimensions of behavior (i.e., delay discounting and sustained attention) may be at greater risk of becoming obese rather than overweight compared to adolescents who are impulsive on only one dimension of behavior (i.e., delay discounting).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-66
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 2013


  • Adolescence
  • Delay discounting
  • Human
  • Impulsivity
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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