Why are you eating, mom? Mothers’ emotional, restrained, and external eating explaining children’s eating styles


  • A. Luszczynska
  • K. Horodyska
  • M. Boberska
  • M. Kruk


Background: Dyadic research investigating three types of eating styles (emotional, restrained, and external) usually focused on associations between maternal feeding practices and child eating styles. Much less is known about the associations between mothers’ own eating styles and child eating styles. Using a longitudinal dyadic design we explored if three maternal eating styles may predict respective eating styles in children. Furthermore, the moderator effects of child’s gender and obesity status were analyzed. Methods: 739 mother-child dyads participated in the study. Children (55% girls) were 6-11 years old whereas mothers (or female legal guardians) were 23-59 years old. Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (versions for adults and for children) were filled out by mothers and children at Time 1 and 7-8 months later (Time 2). Body weight and height were measured objectively. Path analysis was conducted, accounting for the stability of the constructs over time, correlations of all Time 1 construct, and covariations between all Time 2 residuals. Findings: Maternal emotional and restrained eating (Time 1) explained respective eating styles (Time 2) in girls, whereas maternal emotional and external eating (Time 1) predicted respective eating styles (Time 2) in boys. Among children with overweight/obesity, maternal emotional and restrained eating styles (Time 1) explained respective eating styles in children (Time 2). Discussion: These findings may help to explain why the vast majority of research so far explained child emotional eating style only. The reasons may include a lack of consideration of parental eating styles and moderating effects of child’s gender and overweight status.