The eating habits of preschool children interact with the eating habits of mothers

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A very interesting study has been published Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics It can help us to better understand the connections between the eating habits of children and their mothers

When it comes to feeling emotional, eating foods that are usually negative, regardless of their satiety, can be a common reaction for children. It is also called “emotional eating” (EC). Foods that a child tends to have when they have EC are usually high in fat and sugar and provide hedonic pleasure, which in turn controls the child’s experience of these emotions.

EC is considered biologically paradoxical. The body’s natural response to intense emotions is the release of appetite-suppressing hormones that suppress the urge to eat. However, the prevalence of EC in children is higher, remains stable throughout childhood and lasts until adulthood. It suggests that the relationship between emotion and food is learned for someone, probably in childhood. In pediatrics, FB has been associated with a high waist-to-height ratio in children aged 4 to 12 years. In adults, it is often associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and obesity. Collectively, this evidence highlights the importance of understanding FB development early in life.

Also read: Childhood body mass index (BMI) as a predictor of cardiometabolic risk

One issue that is still not well understood is: the behavior of the baby’s diet, that is, the behavior associated with the desire to eat, the moderation of the mediating relationship between the mother’s EC and the baby’s EC through the use of food for sensory control by mothers, as a reward for food or health reasons. Food restrictions? In light of this question, the purpose of the study was to evaluate whether the mediating relationship between maternal EC and child EC was previously identified through the use of food as a reward for maternity, food for mental control or food restriction due to health varied depending on the child. The method of feeding .. Researchers at Aston University in the United Kingdom have done this research.

The eating habits of preschool children interact with the eating habits of mothers.


A cross-sectional study was conducted with an online questionnaire, including mothers of three- to five-year-olds recruited between January and March 2020, from advertisements on social media in the United Kingdom.

The following data were omitted: 45 incomplete responses; Eight responses from fathers and this number were not enough to compare the recorded differences between mothers and fathers in the eating habits of parents, and six mothers who reported that they rarely ate with their child, casting doubt on the validity of their results. The answer

Questionnaires assessed infant EC, trends in infant feeding, maternal EC, and parenting feeding practices.

The result

A total of 185 mothers participated in the study. The average age of the mothers was 36 years, most described their ethnicity as white and most had higher education levels. The mothers had an average of two children and a thematic social position from middle to upper class. The average age of children was 3.8 years, 52% girls and 48% boys. Most children go to day care or school an average of 26 hours a week.

Researchers have found that the mother-child EC mediated relationship through the use of motherhood as a reward for health and food restrictions was moderated by the behavior of the children’s dietary system.


The study sought to explore the mechanistic basis of the relationship between maternal EC and infant EC, evaluating the role of parental feeding practices and trends in infant dietary practices. Moderate mediators suggest that the greater use of food by mothers as a reward and the restriction of food due to health mediates a larger mother-child EC relationship, but this mediating relationship is only significant for children who have a greater inclination towards food.

The results support the suggestion that less responsive parenting practices are a mechanism by which maternal EC can shape the child EC, but the results indicate that the strength of this relationship depends on the child’s own appetite characteristics, where children experience greater parenting behavior. Parents who use dietary practices, high rewards or food restrictions are most affected by the practice.

In summary, maternity reports have been used in the study to consider the complex process by which mother and infant EC are related. For the researchers, the proposed model suggests that, according to the maternity report, trends in maternal EC, feeding parenting practice, and infant feeding methods interact to predict the baby’s EC.

Learn more: AAP 2021: Adolescent BMI and screen time before and after the Covid-19 epidemic

In fact, this study promises future work on how approaches to reducing childhood EC need to consider the complex interactions that occur between parental eating habits and the child’s appetite characteristics that may affect it. The literature has already shown that parenting practices around food can help shape children’s eating habits. However, the researchers noted that this study shows that the effect of this parenting practice depends, in part, on the tendency of existing dietary practices in children. Finally, more research is needed to understand how these results can be used to help mothers who are more motivated to eat and at high EC levels.


Not only adults but also children can use food as a form of escape and to compensate for obstacles encountered throughout life, such as episodes of anxiety or depression, for example. It is important for the pediatrician to identify these symptoms, talk to the family and the baby, and help them understand why they choose certain foods, the amount and timing of eating. In this case, interdisciplinary follow-up, in which psychiatrists, psychologists and nutritionists rely on cases, can do much to help pediatric patients and their families improve greater physical and mental health.


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#Stone RA, Haycraft E, Blissett J, Farrow C. Preschool-age children’s eating habits trends in a cross-sectional analysis of food parenting practices and maternal mental eating to predict children’s sensitive eating. [published online ahead of print, 2022 Feb 4]. J Acad Nutrition Diet. 2022; S2212-2672 (22) 00068-5. DOI: 10.1016 / j.jand.2022.02.001

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