London: Parents, please take note! If your kid is non-stop eating chocolates or gulping down cups of coffee several times during the day, check your eating habits first before scolding them.
Eating as a coping mechanism for negative, positive, or stress-driven emotions -- popularly called emotional eating -- is linked to various feeding practices used by parents, such as restriction, food as reward and child involvement, according to the study.
"Emotional eating was previously found to be more learned than inherited. This study examined not only the interaction between parents when feeding their children, but also what children learned from watching their parents eat," said lead author Joanna Klosowska, MSc, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
Earlier, adolescent vulnerability to emotional eating was often associated with unhealthy dietary patterns and weight gain.
However, the new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour indicates that a parent's restrained eating behaviour was linked to less emotional eating in adolescents.
The initial study was conducted in 2017 with 218 families, along with the longitudinal data available from 2013.
Over the four years between 2013 -2017, covering the time from late childhood to middle adolescence, changes occurred in some parental practices. Parents reported higher monitoring and healthy modelling feeding practices, while the reported levels of food restriction and the healthy environment remained unchanged, researchers revealed.
During the same time period, adolescents reported a considerable increase in emotional eating from below the average in 2013 to above the average in 2017, they added.
Food as a reward and monitoring food increased emotional eating especially in instances where the adolescent employed maladaptive strategies in regulating their emotions.
Child involvement in meals had an opposite effect since it was associated with higher levels of emotion regulation and lower levels of emotional eating.
"This study suggests that parents continue to play an important role in their child's eating behaviour into their teen years," said Klosowska. "Additional research is needed to understand the impact restrained eating demonstrated by a parent impacts the emotional eating of a child."
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