Comforting kids with lollies can cause long-term pain - study

Children who are upset shouldn't be taught that food will help when you are feeling bad.
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Children who are upset shouldn't be taught that food will help when you are feeling bad.


It's so easy to turn a young child's tears into a smile by giving them a lolly.

But that smile could come at a big long-term cost to them, a new study reveals.

It found that giving sweets to comfort small children could lead to emotional eating when they were older. That in turn could can lead to obesity. Even longer term, it could lead to them recreating the same vicious cycle with their own children.

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, King's College London and the University of Leeds looked at a group of 801 Norwegian children at 4-years-old, then again at ages 6, 8, and 10.

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Using sweets to show love can lead to risky emotional eating.

Using sweets to show love can lead to risky emotional eating.

They found that young children whose parents offered food for comfort at ages 4 and 6 had more emotional eating indications at ages 8 and 10. They also found that parents whose children were more easily comforted with food, were more likely to offer them food to soothe them.

The results suggested that emotional feeding increased emotional eating, and emotional eating increased emotional feeding.

The authors suggested parents should use hugs or other ways to soothe children when they were sad or upset - not food.

Crying kids are best comforted with a hug.

Crying kids are best comforted with a hug.

"Food may work to calm a child, but the downside is teaching children to rely on food to deal with negative emotions," said the study's lead author, Silje Steinsbekk, a Norwegian University  associate professor of psychology.

​He said it was important to understand where emotional eating in later life came from because people who had it faced more risk of being overweight and developing eating disorders. 

The study's findings were published in the journal Child Development.

 

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 - Stuff

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