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Emotional eating may manifest the following controlling feeding practices

Posted:  Monday, April 18, 2016

Controlling feeding practices lead to emotional eating in children

Overly controlling feeding practices contribute to ‘emotionally eating’ behaviour in later childhood. Parents may feed their children junk foods rich in fat, sugar, or salt as a reward. According to a new study, such feeding practices may habituate the children to adopting them as a coping mechanism against stress.

In this longitudinal study, the researchers observed the feeding practices used by parents for children aged 3–5 years .The children were then assessed at age 5–7 years for the influence of earlier feeding practices on the development of any emotional eating condition. A child’s likelihood to succumb to non-hunger stress-related eating was also assessed.

The study results indicate that children whose parents used controlled feeding methods and used food as a reward when they were younger developed habits of emotional eating at 5-7 years of age. These children would reach out for a snack, rather than a toy when faced with a stressful situation.

Dr. Claire Farrow, a senior lecturer in Psychology at Aston University, explained, "As a parent, there is often a natural instinct to try and protect our young children from eating 'bad' foods: those high in fat, sugar or salt. Instead we often use these food types as a treat or a reward, or even as a response to ease pain if children are upset. The evidence from our initial research shows that in doing this, we may be teaching children to use these foods to cope with their different emotions, and in turn unintentionally teaching them to emotionally eat later in life."

Eating patterns tracked across life indicate that those who eat emotionally during childhood are much more likely to develop eating disorders and obesity in adulthood. Consequently, future research may be directed towards preventing the development of emotional eating in children.

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