Kids who are temperamental, generally equated with characteristics like anger, and mood swings are likely to be more prone to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and eating habits, according to a recent research.
Temperament is often equated with anger, but it embraces much more, notes the study conducted by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
Temperament is the child's fundamental way of dealing with his environment and himself. It can be regarded as a precursor to what is called personality in adults. The research, as part of the Trondheim Early Secure Study (TESS) project based at NTNU, shows that the child's own characteristics also play a role in the development of eating habits.
When the approximately 800 children were 4, 6, 8, and 10 years old, the researchers asked parents about their children's eating habits and temperament and examined whether temperament could predict how eating habits evolved.
Their findings show that children who are what we often think of as temperamental (e.g. getting frustrated quickly, being more prone to fluctuating moods than others), are particularly vulnerable to developing eating habits that can lead to unhealthy weight gain and difficulties with food and eating.
They resort to emotional eating more over time, are more likely to eat because food is available, even though they may be satiated, and they become pickier eaters over time, the study said.
Children with this temperament also showed greater emotional undereating later - that is, they were more likely to eat less when they were sad, restless, scared, or angry.
"It is important to establish good eating habits during childhood because we often bring these habits with us into our teens and adulthood. Good eating habits are important to avoid overweight," said the researchers.
Are you picky or do you love all kinds of food? Do you eat slowly or fast? Do you eat until your plate is empty even though you're actually full? Do you use food as comfort? These are characteristics of our eating habits that affect what and how much we eat, and therefore also our weight.
Given that temperamental children are extra vulnerable to developing unhealthy eating habits, it is even more important than the parents of these children to pay particular attention to supporting healthy eating.
This can be extra challenging for parents of children who have greater mood swings than others. Parents of temperamental children more often have to deal with negative emotions than parents of children who don't easily become frustrated or angry. It's not surprising that parents of temperamental children more often resort to strategies that may not less than optimal.