Study: Sad Moms Dole Out Bad Food

A new study says “moms with many negative thoughts and feelings” tend to give their kids more fatty or sugary snacks.

According to the study authors, “mothers who were emotionally unstable, anxious, angry, sad, had poor self-confidence or a negative view of the world” were more likely to give up in difficult situations and to feel less in control of their kids. Psychologist Eivind Ystrøm says,

I think that mothers compensate for this either by trying to force healthy food into their child or hold the sweet-bag strings extra tightly. Paradoxically, they try to balance poor control by actually using more control. With force and restrictions they increase desire which quickly results in resistance in the form of tantrums which these mothers are also bad at resisting. Also, earlier studies have shown that controlling behaviour among parents is linked with a more sugar-rich diet among children.

This sounds a little harsh on Mom to us, but Ystrøm does note the need for research into how dads’ moods affect kids’ diets, and into how to both relieve stress and improve kids’ diets. The study authors don’t mention it, but we wonder if unhappy parents also get some vicarious pleasure out of feeding their kids sweet or fatty foods, especially if they deny themselves those foods. Giving kids tasty food can also make parents feel good about themselves, even if the treats they serve aren’t all that healthy. We echo Ystrøm’s call for ways to reduce maternal stress — and we’d also like to see some research into how comfort food can affect the server as well as the eater.

Maternal Personality Affects Child’s Eating Habits [ScienceDaily]

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