Associations between child emotional eating and general parenting style, feeding practices, and parent psychopathology

Appetite. 2014 Sep:80:35-40. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.04.017. Epub 2014 Apr 26.


Emotional eating is the tendency to eat in response to negative emotions. Prior research has identified a relationship between parenting style and child emotional eating, but this has not been examined in clinical samples. Furthermore, the relationship between specific parenting practices (e.g., parent feeding practices) and child emotional eating has not yet been investigated. The current study examined relationships between child emotional eating and both general and specific parenting constructs as well as maternal symptoms of depression and binge eating among a treatment-seeking sample of overweight children. Participants included 106 mother-child dyads who attended a baseline assessment for enrollment in a behavioral intervention for overeating. Ages of children ranged from 8 to 12 years old. Mothers completed self-report measures of their child's emotional eating behavior, their own feeding practices, and symptoms of depression and binge eating. Children completed a self-report measure of their mothers' general parenting style. A stepwise regression analysis was conducted to identify the parent variable that was most strongly related to child emotional eating, controlling for child age and gender. Emotional feeding behavior (i.e., a tendency to offer food to soothe a child's negative emotions) was the parent factor most significantly related to child emotional eating. Findings suggest that emotional feeding practices in parents may be related to emotional eating in children. Treatment with overweight children who engage in emotional eating may be improved by targeting parent feeding practices.

Keywords: Child obesity; Emotional eating; Parenting.

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Bulimia / diagnosis
  • Bulimia / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Psychopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires