Emotion Regulation Difficulties Strengthen Relationships Between Perceived Parental Feeding Practices and Emotional Eating: Findings from a Cross-Sectional Study



People with emotional eating (EE) may experience weight gain and obesity, eating disorder psychopathology, and emotion dysregulation. Limited research has examined experiences in childhood that may be associated with EE in adulthood. Perceived parental feeding practices and emotion regulation difficulties were examined as correlates of negative and positive EE in adulthood.


A cross-sectional study using an online community sample of adults (N = 258) examined self-reported negative (Emotional Eating Scale-Revised; EE-anger/anxiety, EE-boredom, and EE-depression) and positive (Emotion Appetite Questionnaire; EE-positive) EE, perceived parental feeding practices (Child Feeding Questionnaire), and emotion regulation difficulties (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale).


Moderation analyses calculated in PROCESS macro examined emotion regulation difficulties as a moderator of relationships between perceived parental feeding practices and EE. Across all models tested, age, BMI, and gender were entered as covariates. Higher perceptions of parental control (monitoring and restriction) of unhealthy eating behaviors and pressure to eat were more strongly associated with EE-anger/anxiety and EE-positive when emotion regulation difficulties were high. Higher perceptions of parental restriction of unhealthy eating behaviors and pressure to eat were more strongly associated with higher EE-boredom when emotion regulation difficulties were high. No significant interactions between perceived parental feeding practices and emotion regulation difficulties emerged in relation to EE-depression.


Perceived controlling parental feeding practices and emotion regulation difficulties may explain meaningful variance in negative and positive EE in adulthood.

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Correspondence to Wesley R. Barnhart.

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Barnhart, W.R., Braden, A.L. & Dial, L.A. Emotion Regulation Difficulties Strengthen Relationships Between Perceived Parental Feeding Practices and Emotional Eating: Findings from a Cross-Sectional Study. Int.J. Behav. Med. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-021-09959-z

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  • Negative emotional eating
  • Positive emotional eating
  • Emotional eating
  • Emotion regulation difficulties
  • Parental feeding practices