Parents then responded to questions about how they handled their children's negative emotions; whether they engaged in emotion-related, pressuring feeding styles known to predict obesity; frequency, planning of, and communication during family mealtimes; and estimated hours of television viewing per day.
The families are part of the university's STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids program, a cells-to-society approach to the study of childhood obesity. The children are enrolled full-time in 32 child-care centers.
"The study found that insecure parents were significantly more likely to respond to their children's distress by becoming distressed themselves or dismissing their child's emotion. For example, if a child went to a birthday party and was upset because of a friend's comment there, a dismissive parent might tell the child not to be sad, to forget about it. Or the parent might even say: Stop crying and acting like a baby or you're never going over again," she said.
That pattern of punishing or dismissing a child's sad or angry emotions was significantly related not only to comfort feeding but also to fewer family mealtimes and more TV viewing, which led to children's unhealthy eating, including self-reported sugary drinks, fast foods, and salty snacks, Bost said.
"One explanation might be that insecure moms are more easily overwhelmed with stress, find it more difficult to organize family mealtimes, and allow their children to watch more television as a coping strategy," she suggested.
The study's findings provide valuable information for health professionals who are working with parents and children, she noted.
"Clinicians can help address children's obesity by giving parents practical strategies to help kids deal with ne
|Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences