Nav: Home

Temperament affects children's eating habits

June 04, 2020

Parents with temperamental children should pay special attention to helping them develop good eating habits. These children are more susceptible to developing an unhappy relationship with food, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have found.

Temperament is often equated with anger, but it embraces much more. Temperament is the child's fundamental way of dealing with his environment and himself. It can be regarded as a precursor to what is called personality in adults.

Temperament involves how the child thinks, acts and behaves, across situations and over time. For example, does the child become frustrated easily and find it difficult to regulate her emotions, or is she able to regulate her impulses, or complete a task even when tired? Is the child outgoing, curious and exploratory or a little anxious in new situations and with new people?

Parents are of course important in developing good eating habits. Parents do the food shopping, prepare the food and are responsible for the meals. They are also their children's role models and influence their eating habits through the way they relate to food and meals themselves and how they relate to the child's eating. (Example: "You need to eat dinner before you get dessert.") Researchers have shown this in several previous studies (links below).

A new study shows that the child's own characteristics also play a role in the development of eating habits. Researchers investigated the topic as part of the Trondheim Early Secure Study (TESS) project, which is based at NTNU.

When the approximately 800 children were 4, 6, 8 and 10 years old, the researchers asked parents about their children's eating habits and temperament and examined whether temperament could predict how eating habits evolved.

Their findings show that children who are what we often think of as temperamental (e.g., getting frustrated quickly, being more prone to fluctuating moods than others), are particularly vulnerable to developing eating habits that can lead to unhealthy weight gain and difficulties with food and eating.

They resort to emotional eating more over time, are more likely to eat because food is available, even though they may be satiated, and they become pickier eaters over time. Children with this temperament also showed greater emotional undereating later - that is, they were more likely to eat less when they were sad, restless, scared or angry.

It is important to establish good eating habits during childhood because we often bring these habits with us into our teens and adulthood. Good eating habits are important for having a good relationship with food and eating, and to avoid overweight, the researchers say.

Eating habits are not just about what we eat, but also about how we relate to food and eating.

Are you picky or do you love all kinds of food? Do you eat slowly or fast? Do you eat until your plate is empty even though you're actually full? Do you use food as comfort?

These are characteristics of our eating habits that affect what and how much we eat, and therefore also our weight.

Given that temperamental children are extra vulnerable to developing unhealthy eating habits, it is even more important that the parents of these children pay particular attention to supporting healthy eating.

This can be extra challenging for parents of children who have greater moods swings than others. Parents of temperamental children more often have to deal with negative emotions than do parents of children who don't easily become frustrated or angry. It's not surprising that parents of temperamental children more often resort to strategies that may not less than optimal.

A previous study showed that if the child is easily triggered emotionally, parents are more likely to use food to comfort the child. The child learns that food helps when she experiences anger, sadness or other difficult feelings - and thus succumbs to emotional eating more over time.

Even if we parents are not - nor need to be - perfect, we may want to be a little aware of how to help support healthy eating habits in children and how to best meet children's emotions.
-end-
Source: Silje Steinsbekk, Oda Bjørklund, Clare Llewellyn, LarsWichstrøm. Temperament as a predictor of eating behavior in middle childhood - A fixed effects approach. Science Direct. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.104640

More TESS articles here:

Steinsbekk S., Wichstrøm L. Cohort Profile: The Trondheim Early Secure Study (TESS) -a study of mental health, psychosocial development and health behavior from preschool to adolescence. International Journal of Epidemiology. DOI: 10.1093 / ije / dyy190

Steinsbekk, Barker, E., Llewellyn, Cl, Fildes, A., Wichstrøm, L. (2018). Emotional Feeding and Emotional Eating: Reciprocal Processes and the Influence of Negative Affectivity. Child Development, 89, 4, 1234-1246. DOI: 10.1111 / cdev.12756

Bjorklund, O., Belsky, J., Wichstrom, L, Steinsbekk, S. (2018). Predictors of eating behavior in middle childhood: A hybrid fixed effects model. Developmental Psychology, 54, 6, 1099-1110. doi: 10.1037 / dev0000504.

Bjørklund, O., Wichstrøm, L. Llewellyn, C., & Steinsbekk, S. (2018). Emotional Over- and Undereating in Children: A Longitudinal Analysis of Child and Contextual Predictors. Child Development, 29. doi: 10.1111 / cdev.13110

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Related Emotions Articles:

Why are memories attached to emotions so strong?
Multiple neurons in the brain must fire in synchrony to create persistent memories tied to intense emotions, new research from Columbia neuroscientists has found.
The relationship between looking/listening and human emotions
Toyohashi University of Technology has indicated that the relationship between attentional states in response to pictures and sounds and the emotions elicited by them may be different in visual perception and auditory perception.
Multitasking in the workplace can lead to negative emotions
From writing papers to answering emails, it's common for office workers to juggle multiple tasks at once.
Do ER caregivers' on-the-job emotions affect patient care?
Doctors and nurses in emergency departments at four academic centers and four community hospitals in the Northeast reported a wide range of emotions triggered by patients, hospital resources and societal factors, according to a qualitative study led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst social psychologist.
The 'place' of emotions
The entire set of our emotions is mapped in a small region of the brain, a 3 centimeters area of the cortex, according to a study conducted at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Italy.
Faking emotions at work does more harm than good
Faking your emotions at work to appear more positive likely does more harm than good, according to a University of Arizona researcher.
Students do better in school when they can understand, manage emotions
Students who are better able to understand and manage their emotions effectively, a skill known as emotional intelligence, do better at school than their less skilled peers, as measured by grades and standardized test scores, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
How people want to feel determines whether others can influence their emotions
New Stanford research on emotions shows that people's motivations are a driving factor behind how much they allow others to influence their feelings, such as anger.
Moral emotions, a diagnotic tool for frontotemporal dementia?
A study conducted by Marc Teichmann and Carole Azuar at the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris (France) and at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital shows a particularly marked impairment of moral emotions in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
Emotions from touch
Touching different types of surfaces may incur certain emotions. This was the conclusion made by the psychologists from the Higher School of Economics in a recent empirical study.
More Emotions News and Emotions Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Falling
There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.