Associations of parents' use of food as reward with children's eating behaviour and BMI in a population-based cohort

Pauline W. Jansen, Ivonne P.M. Derks, Yuchan Mou, Elisabeth H.M. van Rijen, Romy Gaillard, Nadia Micali, Trudy Voortman, Manon H.J. Hillegers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Parents' use of food as reward has been linked to children's dietary intake, but the association with children's eating behaviour and overweight risk is less clear. Objectives: To examine the temporal association of using food as reward with eating behaviour, body mass index (BMI) and weight status of children. Methods: Participants were 3642 children of the population-based Generation R Study in the Netherlands (8.3% overweight/obese). Repeated assessments were collected at child ages 4 and 9 years, including measured anthropometrics and parent reports on feeding practises and eating behaviour. Results: Linear regressions and cross-lagged models indicated that parents' use of food as reward at child age 4 years predicted Emotional Overeating and Picky Eating at age 9 years. Reversely, higher Emotional Overeating and Food Responsiveness scores were associated with more use of food as reward over time. Using food as reward was not associated with children's satiety response, BMI or overweight risk. Conclusions: A vicious cycle may appear in which children who display food approach behaviour are rewarded with food by their parents, which in turn might contribute to the development of unhealthy eating habits (emotional eating, fussiness). These findings warrant further research, to facilitate evidence-based recommendations for parents.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12662
JournalPediatric obesity
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • BMI
  • eating behaviour
  • emotional eating
  • fussy
  • instrumental feeding
  • using food as reward


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