Parental Emotions & the Development of Food Preferences
Dr. Kangos' Blogs from 2012
A study published online in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, February 2012, discussed relevant psychological processes involving eating behavior and the development of food preferences in children. The main area of interest was strategies to reduce the risk of childhood obesity, but other interesting issues were raised.
The setting in which food is consumed and the parental emotional state were discussed. The issue of the child not eating the desired foods that parents put in front of them was discussed. Repeated offerings (5-10) of the desired foods with verbal praise as reward for eating them was shown to be effective. Rewarding with foods was not recommended. Larger portion sizes did result in a faster acceptance rate!
An intriguing aspect of the discussion was that overt signs of parental joy during the consumption of the desired foods lead to a higher acceptance rate by the children. Some of us can look back on our own lives and see how those positive (or negative) emotional experiences associated with eating led to our own food preferences (or dislikes). Certain foods are consumed during various traditional/cultural experiences which can be emotional times. Influences sustained over time can be very strong.
This lends itself to interesting speculation on the overall emotional development of our children, in particular, the potential for development of eating disorders. Obesity and anorexia may have some early corollaries in a child’s early food experiences.