Parent Depression, Anxiety Linked to Kids’ Eating Habits


A new study has suggested that preschool children whose parents suffer from depression or anxiety may be likelier to become fussy eaters, a trait that results in young ones regularly rejecting certain foods.

Fussy eating has been connected to weight problems, behavioral issues, and constipation, the researchers say. The authors of the study surveyed 4,700 mothers and 4,100 fathers in the Netherlands, along with their toddlers who were born between the years of 2002-2006, according to Robert Preidt of US News and World Report.

Thirty percent of the children in the study were described as fussy eaters by the age of three. If their moms had anxiety problems while they were pregnant and when their child was three-years-old, their young ones were likely to show signs of fussy eating by the age of four.

A similar effect was found if fathers had anxiety when their children were preschoolers. Depression in parents during the mothers’ pregnancy and when the toddler was three resulted in the likelihood that children would become fussy eaters by the age of four.

The report was published online in Archives of Disease in Childhood. Although the research found a link between parental anxiety and depression and their children’s eating habits, the study was not meant to demonstrate a direct cause-and-effect connection. The study does mirror previous research and also offers important data for physicians, said the authors.

The parents who participated were given questionnaires to test their anxiety and depression levels during mid-pregnancy and when their children were three-years-old. Each level the mothers reached correlated with an extra point on the “food fussiness” gauge, writes Ben Spencer for the Daily Mail.

De Barse noted that fussy eating could be problematic for families. Sitting at the family dinner table can become a difficult part of the day. She continued by saying that there was some evidence that ongoing fussy eating in a child can lead to additional health risks.

The researchers knew that unspecified links existed between parents’ anxiety and depression and their children’s fussy eating. But they did not know whether the parents’ stress was responsible for the kids’ fussy eating or the kids’ fussy eating was causing the parents’ anxiety and depression, reported Reuters.

The team warned that parents should not be too worried if their young ones were “picky” eaters because it is also a normal part of development. Ordinarily, it becomes worse at two years and decreases during the childhood years.

Jonathan Owen of The Independent quoted researchers who said:

“We observed that maternal and paternal internalising problems were prospectively associated with fussy eating in pre-schoolers. Clinicians should be aware that not only severe anxiety and depression, but also milder forms of internalising problems can affect child eating behaviour.”

They noted that the link between fathers’ anxiety and their children’s refusal of certain foods could be explained by differing factors between moms’ parenting and dads’. Fathers may try to control feeding times by attempting to exercise authority by determining the type of food and the amount their children eat.

This kind of  control may bring added pressure and have a harmful result by adding to the children’s negative attitudes toward food.

02 24, 2016