Washington: A new study has found that your bond with your mother or lack thereof can have an indirect impact on your own child's chances of obesity.
Kelly Bost, professor of human development and family studies at University of Illinois, explained that if your mother regularly punished or dismissed your anger, anxiety, or sadness instead of being sensitive to your distress and giving you strategies for handling those feelings, you may be insecurely attached and parenting your children in the same way.
A child who doesn't learn to regulate his emotions may in turn develop eating patterns that put him at risk for obesity, Bost said.
The study documents the association between a parent's insecure attachment and their child's consumption of unhealthy foods, leading to weight gain, she said.
According to Bost, children form secure attachments when their caregiver is available and responsive. That attachment gives the child a secure base to explore his environment, protection in times of distress or uncertainty, and a source of joy in everyday interactions.
When that secure base isn't there, an insecure attachment can result, and children who are insecurely attached often experience feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in close relationships.
As adults, they are especially at risk for ineffective parenting surrounding some of the factors that are implicated in pediatric obesity, she said.
The study found that insecure parents were significantly more likely to respond to their children's distress by becoming distressed themselves or dismissing their child's emotion.
For example, if a child went to a birthday party and was upset because of a friend's comment there, a dismissive parent might tell the child not to be sad, to forget about it or the parent might even say: Stop crying and acting like a baby or you're never going over again, Bost explained.
That pattern of punishing or dismissing a child's sad or angry emotions was significantly related not only to comfort feeding but also to fewer family mealtimes and more TV viewing, which led to children's unhealthy eating, including self-reported sugary drinks, fast foods, and salty snacks, Bost said.
Bost added that one explanation might be that insecure moms are more easily overwhelmed with stress, find it more difficult to organize family mealtimes, and allow their children to watch more television as a coping strategy.
The study is published in the journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.