John Worobey, Ph.D.

Professor & Director of the Undergraduate Program in Nutritional Sciences, Rutgers
Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, 1980
Photo: John Worobey, Ph.D.

In our work with young children, we have demonstrated that 4- and 5-year-olds ate better breakfasts through a Pre-School Breakfast Program than in their own homes. Moreover, they performed better on a battery of cognitive tasks when eating at our laboratory preschool as compared to eating breakfast at home. Expanding our research to children of low-incomes attending Head Start, we have shown that both middle-class preschoolers attending our lab school and Head Start preschoolers may be at-risk for overweight, but that Head Start children in particular, were heavier, were less active, and ingested more calories per day relative to our control children.

Since it appears that children as young as 4 years are already on the road toward overweight, we are engaged in a longitudinal project to identify the factors in infancy that may serve to predict excess weight gain in early development. To this end, we are currently in the tenth year of our NIH-funded project that is following a cohort of infants from low-income, minority families. Infants and mothers are seen at 3-, 6-, 12- and 24-months, and we continue to follow these dyads at ages 3-, 4- and 5-years. As we previously established that formula-fed infants displayed less motor activity and irritability than breast-fed infants of the same age and weight, we are additionally trying to determine if a low activity–high irritability profile places the infant at increased risk for excess weight gain.

Photo: African American Mother with Child.

In other words, is infant weight gain exacerbated by low activity plus fussing that results in overfeeding? We observe formula feedings, measure infant motor activity, elicit the mothers' perceptions of temperamental activity and difficultness, and record nutrient intake. Our findings to date suggest that these low-income infants may already be showing a predisposition for becoming overweight, as 32% of Black and 47% of Hispanic infants are at or above the 85 th percentile for age and sex at 12-months. The impact of culture is also being assessed as Mexican mothers, relative to Latino and Black mothers, desire and seem to be rearing the heaviest infants.


  • Hainutdzinava, N., Weatherstone, K., & Worobey, J. (2017). Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy: A current snapshot. Journal of Pediatrics and Mother Care, 2(1), 110.
  • Quick, V., Martin-Biggers, J., Povis, G.A., Hongu, N., Worobey, J., & Byrd-Bredbenner, C.  (2017). A socio-ecological examination of weight-related characteristics of the home environment and lifestyles of households with young children. Nutrients, 9, 604. doi:10.3390/nu9060604
  • R Byrd-Bredbenner, C. Martin-Biggers, J., Koenings, M., Quick, V., Hongu, N., & Worobey, J. (2017). HomeStyles, a web-based childhood obesity prevention program for families with preschool children: Design and methods for a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research Protocols, 6, e73.  doi:10.2196/resprot.7544
  • Alderdice, F, Newham, J., & Worobey, J. (2016). Improving research reporting to avoid waste in psychological research (Editorial). Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. 
  • Nowlin., E.E., Worobey, J., & Worobey, H.S. (2015). Family meal and related-practices in families of preschoolers: Differences by family income. Creative Education (Special Issue on Family Education and Healthy Child Development), 6, 540-547.
  • Martin-Biggers, J., Spaccarotella, K., Hongu, K., Alleman, G., Worobey, J., & Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2015). Translating it into real life: A qualitative study of the cognitions, barriers and supports for key obesogenic behaviors of parents of preschoolers. BMC Public Health, 15, 189 doi 10.1186/s12889-015-1554-3
  • Worobey, J. and Trytko, U. (2014). Associations between maternal feeding style and child overweight. ICAN: Infant, Child & Adolescent Nutrition, 6(4), 216-220.
  • Worobey, J. (2014).  Physical activity in infancy: Developmental aspects, measurement, and importance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99, 729S-733S.
  • Worobey, J., & Worobey, H.S. (2014). Body-size stigmatization by preschool girls: In a doll's world, it's good to be "Barbie." Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 11, 171-174.
  • Worobey, J. (2013). Preventing infant obesity – It's never too soon to start (Editorial). Journal of Food & Nutritional Disorders, 2.
  • Ventura, A.K. & Worobey, J. (2013). Early influences on the development of food preferences. Current Biology, 23, R409-R418.
  • Worobey, J., Fonseca, D.M., Espinosa, C., Healy, S., & Gaugler, R. (2013). Child outdoor physical activity is reduced by prevalence of the Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, 29(1), 78-80. Photo: Hispanic Mother with child.
  • Worobey, J., Borrelli, A., Espinosa, C., & Worobey, H.S. (2013). Feeding practices of mothers from varied income and racial/ethnic groups. Early Child Development and Care
  • Worobey, J., Peña, J., Ramos, I., & Espinosa, C. (2012). Infant difficulty and early weight gain: Does fussing promote feeding? Maternal and Child Nutrition doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2012.00410.x
  • Worobey, J. (2011). Why some mothers stop breastfeeding. Topics in Clinical Nutrition, 26(3), 229-233.
  • Lewis, M. & Worobey, J. (2011). Mothers and toddlers lunch together: The relation between observed and reported behavior. Appetite, 56, 732-736.
  • Bard, K.A., Brent, L., Lester, B, Worobey, J., & Suomi, S.A. (2011). Neurobehavioral integrity of chimpanzee newborns: Comparisons across groups and across species reveal gene-environment interaction effects. Infant and Child Development, 20, 47-93.
  • Perlman, A.I., Worobey, J., O'Sullivan Maillet, J., Touger-Decker, R., Hom, D.L., & Smith, J.K. (2010).  Multivitamin/ mineral supplementation does not affect standardized assessment of academic performance in elementary school children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(7), 1089-1093. 
  • Worobey, H. S., Ostapkovich, K., Yudin, K. & Worobey, J. (2010). Trying versus liking fruits and vegetables: Correspondence between mothers and preschoolers.  Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 49(2), 87-97. 
  • Worobey, J. (2009). Barbie at 50: Maligned but benign? Eating and Weight Disorders, 14, e219-e224.
  • Worobey, J., Vetrini, N.R., & Rozo, E.M. (2009). Mechanical measurement of infant activity: A cautionary note. Infant Behavior and Development, 32, 167-172.
  • Worobey, J., Islas-Lopez, M., & Hoffman, D.J. (2009). Maternal behavior and infant weight gain in the first year. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 41(3), 169-175.
  • Worobey, J. & Islas-Lopez, M. (2009). Temperament measures of African-American infants: Change and convergence with age. Early Child Development and Care, 179(1), 107-112.
  • Worobey, J., Islas-Lopez, M., & Hoffman, D.J. (2008). Predictors of infant feeding frequency by Mexican immigrant mothers. Topics in Clinical Nutrition, 23(4), 333-339.
  • Worobey, J. (2008). Risk factors for obesity in early human development. In H.E. Fitzgerald & V. Mousouli (Eds.), Obesity in childhood and adolescence (Vol. 2, pp. 3-23). Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Worobey, J. (2007). Health, nutrition and atypical development. In A. Slater & M.Lewis (Eds.), Introduction to infant development (2nd ed., pp. 320-337). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Jaffe, K., & Worobey, J. (2006). Mothers' attitudes toward fat, weight, and dieting in themselves and their children. Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 3, 113-120.
  • Worobey, J., Tepper B.J. & Kanarek, R. (2006). Nutrition and behavior: Concepts, issues and research. Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing.
  • Worobey, J., & Islas Lopez, M. (2005). Perceptions and preferences for infant body size by low-income mothers. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 23(4), 303-308.
  • Worobey, J., Worobey, H.S., & Adler, A.L. (2005). Diet, activity and BMI in preschool-aged children: Differences across settings. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 44(6), 455-466.
  • Worobey, J., Adler, A., & Worobey, H.S. (2004). Diet, activity and risk for overweight in a sample of Head Start children. Journal of Children's Health, 2 (2), 133-144.
  • Worobey, J., Pisuk, J., & Decker, K. (2004). Diet and behavior in at-risk children: Evaluation of an early intervention program. Public Health Nursing, 21 (2), 122-127.
  • Worobey, J. (2002). Interpersonal versus intrafamilial predictors of maladaptive eating attitudes in young women. Social Behavior and Personality, 30(5), 423-434.
  • Worobey, J. (2001). Temperamental activity and fussiness: Implications for weight of 3-month-old infants. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 92, 1211-1212.