Food and Behaviour Research

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Preschool-Aged Children’s Food Approach Tendencies Interact with Food Parenting Practices and Maternal Emotional Eating to Predict Children’s Emotional Eating in a Cross-Sectional Analysis

Stone R, Haycraft E, Blissett J, Farrow C (2022) Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics S2212-2672(22)00068-5 doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2022.02.001 

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Background: Children's tendency to eat while they are emotional, irrespective of satiety, is termed emotional eating (EE). EE develops early in childhood and has been associated with maternal modelling of EE and food parenting practices. In addition, individual differences in a child's appetitive traits (ie, food approach behaviors) are related to the development of EE.

Objective: The objective of this study was to examine whether or not the previously identified mediating relationship between maternal EE and child EE via maternal use of food as a reward, food for emotion regulation, or restriction of food for health reasons varies as a function of child food approach.

Design: A cross-sectional online questionnaire study was conducted.

Participants/setting: One hundred eighty-five mothers of children aged between 3 and 5 years were recruited between January 2020 and March 2020 from advertisements placed on social media in the United Kingdom.

Main outcome measure: Questionnaires assessed child EE, child food approach tendencies, maternal EE, and food parenting practices.

Statistical analyses performed: Using PROCESS version 3.4, model 14, moderated mediations were employed to assess whether or not child food approach tendencies moderated the mediating effect of controlling food parenting practices between maternal EE and child EE.

Results: This study found the relationship between maternal reports of maternal EE and child EE was mediated by maternal use of food as a reward, but only for children with high food approach tendencies (B = .05, 95% CI 0.010 to 0.101; R2 = 48%). This study also found the relationship between maternal EE and child EE was mediated by maternal use of restriction for health reasons, but only when children showed medium (B = .02, 95% CI 0.004 to 0.072) to high (B = .06, 95% CI 0.016 to 0.110; R2 = 51%) food approach tendencies.

Conclusions: The potential for the intergenerational transmission of EE via the use of food as a reward and food restriction may be exacerbated when a child has higher food approach behaviors.


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