Parents who force their kids to finish everything served to them may be doing more harm than good, as new research suggests that forced eating disrupts normal eating behavior, making children vulnerable to unhealthy weight gain.
In order to promote the development of normal eating behavior, it is important for children to decide how much they want to eat.
"If children are pushed to eat everything on their plates, they may stop relying on their own body's signals, and eat until the parents are happy," the study said.
"We have looked to see if physical activity, television time and appetite traits can explain why some children's body mass index (BMI) increases more than others' do," said Silje Steinsbekk, assistant professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
The findings published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology
showed that the way children related to food and eating was crucial. Physical activity and TV viewing, on the other hand, did not explain why the BMI of some children increased more as compared to others.
"Our study shows that BMI increases more in children where food especially triggers their eating behavior. Their food intake is controlled more by the sight and smell of food, and less by an inner experience of hunger," Steinsbekk said.
The research is part of a long-term study that looks at children's psychological and psychosocial development over several years.
The same children are examined every two years, and in this particular study, the researchers dealt with data from when the children were four, six and eight years old.