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Associations Between Adult Attachment Style, Emotion Regulation, and Preschool Children's Food Consumption

Bost, Kelly K. PhD*; Wiley, Angela R. PhD*; Fiese, Barbara PhD*; Hammons, Amber PhD; McBride, Brent PhD*The STRONG KIDS Team

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: January 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 1 - p 50–61
doi: 10.1097/01.DBP.0000439103.29889.18
Original Article

Objective: The goal of this study was to test 3 serial mediation models of how caregiver adult attachment style influences children's food consumption through its influence on emotion regulation. Three mediators that have been shown to increase the risk for pediatric obesity and that are likely to be influenced by negative emotion regulation strategies in everyday family interactions were chosen: (1) caregiver feeding practices (2) family mealtime routines, and (3) child television (TV) viewing.

Method: A total of 497 primary caregivers of 2.5- to 3.5-year-old children reported on their own attachment style, typical responses to their children's negative affect, feeding styles, mealtime and TV viewing routines, and their children's consumption of healthful and unhealthful foods.

Results: Insecure mothers were more likely to use punishing or dismissing responses to their children's negative affect, and negative emotion regulation predicted the increased use of emotion-related feeding styles and fewer mealtime routines. These variables, in turn, were found to predict children's unhealthful food consumption, documenting serial mediational influences. With respect to TV viewing, caregiver insecurity influenced child food consumption indirectly through its direct effect on child TV viewing.

Conclusion: Taken together, these data suggest that insecure attachment may put parents at a risk for using negative emotion regulation strategies in response to their children's distress, which may also have important implications for the interpersonal environment surrounding food and the development of children's early eating behaviors.

*Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL;

Department of Child, Family and Consumer Sciences, Fresno State University, Fresno, CA.

Address for reprints: Kelly K. Bost, PhD, Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois, 2008 Doris Christopher Hall, 904 West Nevada Street, Urbana, IL 61801; e-mail:

Disclosure: This research was funded, in part, by grants from the Illinois Council for Agriculture Research to Kristin Harrison (PI) and the University of Illinois Health and Wellness Initiative. This project was also supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch projects to K. Bost (project ILLU-793-343), to A. Wiley (project ILLU-793-321-0205791), and to B. Fiese (project ILLU-793-328). The authors declare no conflict of interest.

The members of the STRONG KIDS Team are given at the end of the article.

Received February , 2013

Accepted September , 2013

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins