The mediating role of child self-regulation of eating in the relationship between parental use of food as a reward and child emotional overeating.Appetite. 2017 06 01; 113:78-83.A
Emotional eating, or eating in response to negative emotions rather than internal hunger cues, has been related to many maladaptive eating patterns that contribute to weight gain and obesity. The parent feeding practice of use of food as a reward is positively associated with children emotionally overeating, yet, little is known as to the potential behavioral mechanism linking these behaviors. The current study examined the mediating role of child self-regulation of eating in the relationship between parental use of food as a reward and child emotional overeating. Parents of preschool aged children (n = 254) completed online questionnaires targeting parent feeding practices, child eating behaviors, and child self-regulation in eating. Mediation was assessed with Hayes' PROCESS macros in SPSS. Results demonstrated that the relationship between parental use of food as a reward and child emotional overeating was partially mediated by child self-regulation in eating, even after controlling for parent and child gender, household income, and race/ethnicity. In summary, parental use of food as a reward leads to children's diminished ability to regulate intake, which then leads to increased emotional over eating. Results of this study have implications for both the prevention of disordered eating behaviors and childhood obesity prevention programs, suggesting the need to assist children in learning how to self-regulate in the presence of food.