Mothers who think negative thoughts and are prone to anxiety tend to feed their children a lot of unhealthy food, claims a new study by the from Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).
The researchers have found that mothers who were emotionally unstable, anxious, angry, sad, had poor self-confidence or a negative view of the world were far more likely to give their child sweet and fatty foods.
In the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, the researchers examined a total of 27 763 mothers, who were asked how often and how much their 18 month old child ate of 36 types of food and drink.
This is the age children learn to prefer sweet and fatty food over healthy food.
According to psychologist Eivind Ystrom at the NIPH, these maternal personality traits fall under a collective name of high negative affectivity (negative emotions).
These people often have a lower stress threshold, giving up quicker when faced with obstacles and often experience lack of control of the child.
"I think that mothers compensate for this either by trying to force healthy food into their child or hold the sweet-bag strings extra tightly," said Ystrom.
"They try to balance poor control by actually using more control. Earlier studies have shown that controlling behaviour among parents is linked with a more sugar-rich diet among children.
"People with a lot of negative affectivity often express worry and appear to be helpless and insecure. Research into this type can help to create a toolbox of advice to relieve the feeling of stress and lack of coping and improve the child's diet," Ystrom added.