Study: Dieting Demands From Parents Can Create Teen Eating Disorders

ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) — Parents’ attitudes about dinnertime, and about food in general, can have a large impact on their children’s eating habits.

A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health finds that many teenagers have a negative attitude, psychopathology about food consumption learned from their parents. And eating disorders are often something found to develop during the teenage years.

“A parent who says, ‘You’re not leaving the table until you eat that vegetable’ creates a negative atmosphere at mealtimes,” lead author Emma Haycraft, Ph.D. of the Centre for Research into Eating Disorders at Loughborough University in the UK told Medicalxpress.com. “That can also teach the child to ‘override’ natural feelings of fullness.”

Excessive control over both female and male teenagers’ eating habits was tied to eating disorder symptomatology. The study suggests that parents should be have involvement in making sure their teen is eating healthy food, but they should avoid demanding how much their children should eat.

“This study suggests that finding balance in the domain of child feeding might prevent eating disorders,” Shayla C. Holub, Ph.D., and associate professor of psychology at the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, told Medicalxpress.com.

This study involved more than 500 boys and girls between the ages of 13-15 who self-reported their own eating habits, their parents’ current feeding habits and their own weight and height.

The study authors were slightly surprised to find that it was the boys who reported more eating disorder symptoms from their parents. “More eating disorder symptoms were reported in these boys, which was opposite of the girls’ situations,” wrote the authors.

“This is one of the first studies to examine parental feeding practices from the adolescent’s perspective,” Holub told Medicalxpress. “I think this provides a unique advantage point from which to examine the parent-adolescent feeding relationship, especially because during the teen years, parents and their adolescents may see the world very differently.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “eating disorders are serious medical problems and are more common in females than males. Although they are marked by severe disturbances in eating behavior, they are more than just a problem with food. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are all types of eating disorders. Eating disorders often develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but can occur during childhood or later in adulthood.”

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