(Credit: Mike Liu/Flickr)
Most toddlers go through bouts of picky eating, but infants with more inhibited personalities are more likely to refuse new foods, say researchers.
In a study, researchers observed how infants responded to new foods and new toys throughout their first 18 months. The study found that infants who were wary of new toys also tended to be less accepting of new foods, suggesting early food attitudes stem from personality.
“It was striking how consistently the responses to new foods related to the responses to new toys,” says study author Kameron Moding, a PhD graduate from Penn State in human development and family studies and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Denver.
“Not only were they associated at 12 months, but those responses also predicted reactions to new objects six months later. They also followed the same developmental pattern across the first year of life.”
A person’s temperament, one part of their personality, tends to fall somewhere on the exuberant-inhibited spectrum. Those on the exuberant end tend to approach new things and situations head on, while people who are more inhibited tend to be more reserved.
“Infants who show hesitation in response to new toys will likely show hesitation when trying new foods for the first time as well.”
Cynthia Stifter, professor of human development at Penn State and principal investigator of the larger study on which this one is based, says a person’s temperament affects almost every aspect of their life.
“Temperament is kind of like a pair of glasses that each person wears. It’s the unique way one sees the world,” Stifter says. “Everything one responds to is through the lens of who they are, meaning the biology-based individual differences that they’re born with.”
While previous research has looked at how a child’s temperament affects their mental health and how they get along with their peers, the study is one of the first to explore how temperamental approach—whether a person is attracted to or wary of new things—relates to a child’s eating behavior.