World Mental Healthcare Association

Parental Emotional Feeding Leads To Emotional Eating In School-Age Children: Study

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Health News: New study found that school-age children whose parents fed them more to soothe their negative feelings were more likely to eat emotionally later on. The reverse was also found to be the case, with parents of children who were more easily soothed by food being more likely to feed them for emotional reasons.

The research team investigated emotional feeding and eating in a group of 801 Norwegian 4-year-olds, looking at these issues again at ages 6, 8, and 10. They observed whether parents involved in the study (mostly mothers) influenced their children’s later behavior by offering food to make them feel better when they were upset (emotional feeding), and whether parents whose children were easily soothed by food (those who calmed when given food) were more likely to offer them more food for comfort at a subsequent time.

All the parents completed questionnaires describing their children’s emotional eating and temperament (how easily they became upset or controlled their emotions), as well as their own emotional feeding. Approximately 65% of the children displayed some emotional eating.

Researchers found that young children whose parents offered them food for comfort at ages 4 and 6 had more emotional eating at ages 8 and 10. But the reverse was also true: Parents whose children were more easily comforted with food were more likely to offer them food to soothe them (i.e., to engage in emotional feeding).

Thus, emotional feeding increased emotional eating, and emotional eating increased emotional feeding. The findings held even after accounting for children’s body-mass index and initial levels of feeding and eating.

To Know More You May Refer To:

Steinsbekk, S., Barker, E. D., Llewellyn, C., Fildes, A., & Wichstrøm, L. (2017). Emotional feeding and emotional eating: Reciprocal processes and the influence of negative affectivity. Child Development, 89(4), 1234-1246. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12756

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