Emotional eating has been recognised as one of the leading causes of obesity, but now studies are showing that the seeds are sown at a younger age than first thought.
A Belgian research team asked more than 300 children aged between five and ten years old to answer questions covering stressful life events including bullying, rows with siblings and friends, the death of a grandparent, or the divorce of their parents, and how these made them feel.
The parents were then asked to take part in a questionnaire about how often their children ate certain foods, while the kids were quizzed on why they felt compelled to eat these foods at particular times.
The researchers found that girls were particularly prone to giving into eating comfort foods when feeling stressed or anxious. The results also showed that the more stressful the life event, the more sweet foods the youngster ate.
Researcher Nathalie Michels of Ghent University claims that parents and teachers should better equip kids with the right coping tools and be aware that they are still the primary role models when it comes to their child’s eating habits. Michels also warned that children are likely to take these early emotional eating habits into adulthood.