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Are parents’ anxiety and depression related to child fussy eating?

Abstract

Objective To examine the association between parental anxiety and depression with child fussy eating—that is, consistent rejection of particular food items.

Design This study was embedded in Generation R, a prospective cohort from fetal life onwards in the Netherlands.

Setting Population-based.

Participants 4746 4-year-old children and their parents.

Exposure Parental internalising problems (ie, symptoms of anxiety and depression) were assessed with the Brief Symptoms Inventory during pregnancy and the preschool period (child age 3 years).

Main outcome measure The food fussiness scale of the Children's Eating Behaviour Questionnaire.

Results Maternal anxiety during pregnancy and during the child's preschool period was related to higher food fussiness sum-scores in children. For instance, per point on the anxiety scale in pregnancy, children had on average a 1.02 higher sum-score (95% CI 0.59 to 1.46) on the food fussiness scale, after adjustment for confounders. Likewise, mothers’ depressive symptoms at both time points were associated with fussy eating behaviour in their children (eg, in the antenatal period: per point on the depression scale, children had a 0.91 point higher sum-score on the food fussiness scale, 95% CI 0.49 to 1.33). We found largely similar associations between fathers’ internalising problems and children's fussy eating. However, fathers’ anxiety during the antenatal period was not related to child fussy eating.

Conclusions Maternal and paternal internalising problems were prospectively associated with fussy eating in preschoolers. Healthcare practitioners should be aware that non-clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression in parents are risk factors for child fussy eating.

  • Child Psychology
  • Epidemiology
  • Nutrition

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    R Mark Beattie