Does you mom often punish you or dismiss your emotions instead of being sensitive to your distress and teach you how to handle those feelings? You may run a higher chance of obesity. "A child who doesn't learn to regulate his emotions may, in turn, develop eating patterns that put him/her at risk for obesity," said Kelly Bost, a professor of human development and family studies at University of Illinois. Clinicians can help address childhood obesity by giving parents practical strategies to help kids deal with negative emotions like anger, sadness and boredom.
The study documents the link between a parent's insecure attachment and their child's consumption of unhealthy foods, leading to weight gain.
"A person's attachment is consistently related to the way he responds to negative emotions. The response might be related to three practices that we know are related to obesity - emotion-related feeding styles, mealtime routine and television viewing," she said.
In an insecure attachment environment, children often experience feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in close relationships.
As adults, they are especially at risk for ineffective parenting surrounding some of the factors that are implicated in paediatric obesity, Bost added. 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.
"One explanation might be that insecure moms are more easily overwhelmed with stress, find it more difficult to organise family mealtimes, and allow their children to watch more television as a coping strategy," she suggested.
Telling a child to 'clean your plate' or 'eat just three more bites and you can have dessert' sends the wrong message.
"In fighting childhood obesity, we can teach children is to eat when they're hungry and recognize when they are full. Don't promote eating under stress or eating to soothe," she added.