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Keywords:

  • childhood obesity;
  • obesogenic environment;
  • learning;
  • early experience;
  • food preferences;
  • eating behaviors;
  • developmental systems theories

Abstract— Currently, children are developing in an obesity-promoting, or obesogenic, environment, which has emerged within the past 3 decades. This rapid change provides a rare opportunity to investigate the phenotypic outcomes that result from the expression of human genetic predispositions in a new environment. Unfortunately, the environmental changes that have occurred are associated with epidemic obesity rates in all age groups. Using a developmental perspective, this article argues that this probabilistic outcome is not predetermined, however. The article also provides examples of learning paradigms—familiarization and associative and observational learning—that present opportunities for parents and caregivers to restructure children’s environments in early life, increasing the likelihood of healthy weight-status outcomes in the context of the current obesogenic environment.