The COMET study: Examining the effects of COVID-19-related perceived stress on Los Angeles Mothers' dysregulated eating behaviors, child feeding practices, and body mass index

Appetite. 2021 Aug 1:163:105209. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105209. Epub 2021 Mar 16.


The COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions and mandates have had pronounced implications on the well-being of individuals. This study conducted exploratory analyses of the relationship between COVID-19-related life changes and COVID-19-related perceived stress and associations between COVID-19-related perceived stress and dysregulated maternal eating behaviors, child feeding practices, and body mass index (BMI) in Los Angeles mothers. Mothers (Mage = 37.6 ± 6.9) of children aged 5-11 (N = 197, response rate 92.5%) completed an online questionnaire assessing COVID-19-related life changes, COVID-19-related perceived stress, mechanisms used to cope with COVID-19, child feeding practices, their own eating behavior, demographics, and height and weight. The highest proportion of participants reported changes to work, disruptions due to childcare challenges, and increased home responsibilities. Higher COVID-19-related perceived stress was experienced by those who reported loss of work hours (29%), loss of job (15.2%), reduced ability to afford childcare (18.8%), and reduced ability to afford rent/mortgage (19.8%) (ps < 0.05) than those who did not. The most common strategy that mothers indicated using to cope with COVID-19 related stress was eating comfort foods (e.g., candy and chips) (58.7%). COVID-19-related perceived stress was positively associated with mother's BMI and emotional eating (ps < 0.05). Rewarding their child's eating and behavior with food were both positively associated with the number of COVID-19 related life changes (ps < 0.05). This study yields new knowledge of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mothers' dysregulated eating behaviors and child feeding practices. The results highlight the importance of conducting further research to confirm these findings and understand the nature of associations between COVID-19-related perceived stress and health. This is crucial in order to explore ways in which lasting impacts of the pandemic on mental and physical health can be prevented.

Keywords: COVID-19; Child feeding practices; Dysregulated eating; Life change; Mother; Reward feeding; Stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers*
  • Pandemics
  • Parenting
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires