Stephanie Anzman, MS, and Dr Leann Birch, of the Centre for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University studied 197 non-Hispanic white girls aged 5.
They found that girls with lower self-control had higher BMIs and gained more weight than those girls who demonstrated better self-regulation.
Girls with lower self-control were almost twice as likely to be overweight by the age of 15.
Moreover, the combination of high parental restriction and low self-control put girls at the highest risk for weight gain among the group studied.
"Parental attempts to help children with lower self-control by restricting their access to favourite snack foods can make the forbidden foods more attractive, thereby exacerbating the problem," said Anzman.
She suggests that parents can help their children learn to control their eating habits by allowing them to choose between healthy options.
She added that it is often better to not keep restricted foods in the house. "That way," she explains, "it is not necessary to constantly tell children they cannot have the foods they want."
The findings appear in The Journal of Pediatrics.