The Daily Telegraph
Using food to reward children can create ‘emotional eaters’
PARENTS who reward children with food or restrict their diets put them at risk of becoming “emotional eaters” who use food to regulate their feelings, a study suggests.
Researchers investigated how various feeding and eating practices used by parents, such as restriction and food as reward, can influence the behaviour of their children.
The data revealed that emotional eating in teenagers was more likely if they had parents who used food as a reward and monitored their diets.
Emotional eating, or eating as a coping mechanism for negative, positive, or stress-driven emotions, is associated with unhealthy dietary patterns and weight gain.
However, parents who involved their child in their meals have the opposite effect. Being involved in the meal helped with mood regulation and therefore made teenagers less likely to eat for emotional reasons.
Those parents who had a restrained eating behaviour themselves were also linked to less emotional eating in their adolescent children.
Study author Joanna Klosowska, doctoral researcher in public health and psychology at Ghent University in Belgium, said: “This study examined not only the interaction between parents when feeding their children, but also what children learnt from watching their parents eat.”
The study, which was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour, was conducted in 2017 with 218 families. The researchers also used data collected in 2013.
Ms Klosowska said: “This study suggests that parents continue to play an important role in their child’s eating behaviour into their teen years.
“Additional research is needed to understand the impact [of] restrained eating demonstrated by a parent [on] the emotional eating of a child.”
♦ More than half of children, including those as young as eight, are self-conscious about their appearance, according to a study.
Researchers at CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan found that more than half of girls aged eight to 12 (57 per cent) and 49 per cent of boys in the same age bracket were also embarrassed about their appearance.