Eating behaviors of parents play a role in teens' emotional eating

New study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior outlines what role parents can play in shaping emotional eating in their adolescent children


Philadelphia September 7, 2022

Emotional eating, or eating as a coping mechanism for negative, positive, or stress-driven emotions, is associated with unhealthy dietary patterns and weight gain. A research article featured in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, published by Elsevier, discusses adolescent vulnerability to emotional eating and how various feeding practices used by parents, such as restriction, food as reward, and child involvement, influence eating behavior.

"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.

The initial study was conducted in 2017 with 218 families. Additionally, longitudinal data collected in 2013 were also available. One parent from each family completed the Child Feeding Questionnaire, as well as the Child Feeding Practices Questionnaire, and both adolescent and parent completed the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire. Emotion regulation was assessed with the Dutch version of the child-reported FEEL-KJ questionnaire. The adolescent's body weight and height were measured by researchers.

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 modeling feeding practices, while the reported levels of food restriction and the healthy environment remained unchanged. 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, according to the norms for the Dutch population. Additionally, the maladaptive way in which they regulated their emotions was also associated with emotional eating.

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. Interestingly, a parent's restrained eating behavior was linked to less emotional eating in adolescents.

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Caption: New study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior outlines what role parents can play in shaping emotional eating in children (Credit: Svitlana/stock.adobe.com).

"This study suggests that parents continue to play an important role in their child's eating behavior 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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Notes for editors

The article is "Emotion Regulation Moderates the Associations of Food Parenting and Adolescent Emotional Eating," by Joanna Klosowska, MSc; Sandra Verbeken, PhD; Caroline Braet, PhD; Stefaan De Henauw, PhD, MD; and Nathalie Michels, PhD (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2022.05.002). It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 54, issue 9 (September 2022), published by Elsevier.

The article is openly available at https://www.jneb.org/article/S1499-4046(22)00371-2/fulltext.

Full text of the article is also available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain a copy. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Joanna Klosowska, MSc, at joanna.klosowska@ugent.be.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Joanna Klosowska and other information for journalists are available at www.jneb.org/content/media. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media with permission from Eileen Leahy.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)

Advancing Research, Practice and Policy

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the Society's efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policymakers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications. www.jneb.org

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Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com