Relation between attachment and obesity in preschool years: A systematic review of the literature

Ana F. Santos, Mariana C. Martins, Carla Fernandes, Kelly K. Bost, Manuela Veríssimo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Increasing evidence suggests that attachment plays an important role in obesity. However, few studies examined this relationship in preschool children. This study aimed to systematically examine the empirical, peer-reviewed evidence regarding the relationship between attachment quality and obesity in the preschool years. Using established guidelines, relevant peer-reviewed literature published between 2000 and July 2021 was searched through EBSCO. This yielded a total of 1124 records for review. Established inclusion criteria comprised: empirical studies published in peer-review journals; include at least one anthropometric measure and/or food consumption measure. Exclusion criteria comprised: attachment measures not following Bowlby-Ainsworth conceptualization of the construct; children in institutionalized settings; context of severe mental illness, documented substance use disorders, or eating disorders; include only a measure of the psychological aspects of eating; intervention programs. After exclusions, eight studies with a total of 9225 participants met the inclusion criteria. Results support the role of attachment in weight-related outcomes, suggesting that considering attachment in the risk of obesity could contribute to the elaboration of effective prevention and intervention programs. Limitations included the small number of studies, predominately cross-sectional designs, the diversity of methodologies, most samples not including fathers, and lack of evidence about the developmental mechanisms underlying the association between attachment and obesity. More evidence is needed to determine how attachment and obesity are linked, and the potential underlying mechanisms accounting for this relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3572
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Attachment 1
  • Obesity 2
  • Preschool 4
  • Systematic review 3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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