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7 Oct 2013

Parents play important role in teen eating behaviours

The way parents manage mealtimes has been linked to lower levels of eating disorders in teenagers, according to a new study from Loughborough University.

Researchers looked at perceptions of more than 500 teens aged 13-15, and found that those who felt their parents had more responsibility for providing meals, or whose parents were in charge of food provision, reported lower levels of eating disorders.

However, parents’ use of more controlling food-related strategies was linked to less desirable teen eating behaviours.

If girls feel pressured by their parents to eat, they are more likely to report signs of disordered eating.

Conversely, boys were more likely to report symptoms of eating disorders where they feel that certain foods are restricted by their parents.

Dr Emma Haycraft in the University’s Centre for Research into Eating Disorders (LUCRED) is leading the project. She said:

“Our findings highlight the importance of parents continuing to be responsible for mealtimes until their children are well into their teens. 

“By providing meals, and at the same time avoiding the use of overly controlling feeding practices, parents and carers can help contribute to more positive eating behaviours.  

“Our next step will be to find out to what extent the teens’ perception corresponds with what their parents are actually doing.”

Professor Caroline Meyer, director of LUCRED, added:

“The results of such studies are important for facilitating the development of interventions aimed at promoting healthy eating behaviours in teenagers which is part of our ongoing research at LUCRED”.

The paper Adolescents' level of eating psychopathology is related to perceptions of their parents' current feeding practices has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

−ENDS−

Notes for editors

Article reference number: PR 13/184

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. It has been voted England's Best Student Experience for six years running in the Times Higher Education league, and in recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 11 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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