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Cin Cin Tan

Cin Cin Tan

For University of Wisconsin Oshkosh assistant psychology professor Cin Cin Tan, the complex recipe for healthy eating behaviors includes a mix of attitude, self-regulation and socialization.

“My research crosses developmental, social and health psychology in order to understand factors that relate to developing healthy eating behaviors and attitudes about weight,” she said. “My primary objectives are to determine the role of parents in helping children to develop healthy eating behaviors and accept individuals with various body sizes.”

Tan currently is conducting a study of mothers and children to better understand the challenges of feeding young children. She hopes to find feeding practices that lead to better eating behaviors.

At birth, babies have an innate ability to self-regulate their eating. But throughout life, as children hear socialization messages, such as “the clean plate club” and don’t “waste” food, those inner cues subside.

“I am especially interested in the ability of children to self-regulate food intake based on internal cues of hunger and satiety, as well as the role of emotions in children’s eating behaviors,” she explained.

Tan is looking for 100 mothers with children between 8 and 12 years old to come to campus and take a survey, which takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. Participating families will be entered into a drawing for an iPad mini. A variety of times are available to participate, including evenings and weekends.

A first-year graduate student and four undergraduate students are helping Tan conduct the research. “This research is giving the students some good experience with interacting with parents from the community,” she said.

In other research, Tan also is interested in looking at attitudes about weight in children and adults. She studies the associations between parents’ and children’s weight prejudices.

“With the current societal concerns about childhood obesity, I hope that my research will contribute to our understanding and provide practitioners and clinicians with the knowledge to help families and children cope with childhood obesity,” she said.

In a previous study published in the Journal of Health Psychology in June 2013, Tan and her collaborator looked at the moderating effect of “fat talk” between female friends. In this work, she found that women tend to feel less depressed about their weight if they discuss their weight with a close female friend.

Tan, who joined the UWO faculty two years ago, teaches developmental psychology and health psychology.

To learn more or to take part in the study, contact Tan at tanc@uwosh.edu or (920) 424-0943.

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