Some of us turn to food for comfort when we are feeling emotional or stressed. Likewise, some of us cut back on food when we are feeling upset. But they are habits that could be influencing our children too.
That’s because new research by University College London has found that children who eat more or less when stressed or upset have learnt the behaviour rather than inherited it, suggesting home environments are the primary cause of emotional eating.
Parental acts such as giving children their favourite food when they are feeling upset have been highlighted as potential reasons for the habits forming. But UK-based eating disorder charity Beat says parents shouldn’t be blamed for their children’s eating issues.
"Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses and never have one sole cause," the charity said.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, analysed 398 four-year-old British twins. Half came from families with obese parents and half from parents with a healthy weight. The parents were asked questions about their children’s eating habits, including their tendencies to emotionally eat.
The researchers compared the questionnaire data relating to eating disorders between identical and non-identical twins and found very little difference between the two, which suggests environment plays a bigger role than genes.