Preschool children whose parents have depression and/or anxiety may be more likely to be fussy eaters, a new study suggests.
Fussy eating — regularly refusing to eat certain foods — is common among children and is a frequent cause of concern among parents. And it has been linked with constipation, weight problems and behavioral issues in children, the researchers said.
The study authors looked at more than 4,700 mothers and 4,100 fathers in the Netherlands and their children, born between 2002 and 2006. By age 3, about 30 percent of the children were considered fussy eaters, the findings showed.
Children were more likely to be fussy eaters at age 4 if their mothers had anxiety during pregnancy and when the child was 3 years old. Fathers’ anxiety when kids were preschool-aged was linked to a similar effect in their children, the researchers said.
The investigators also found that depression among mothers and fathers during pregnancy and when the child was 3 was associated with an increased risk of the child being a fussy eater at age 4.
The study was published online Feb. 22 in Archives of Disease in Childhood.
The findings support previous research. The study also provides important information for doctors, the study authors said.
“Clinicians should be aware that not only severe anxiety and depression, but also milder forms of internalizing problems can affect child eating behavior,” Lisanne de Barse, of Erasmus MC-University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.
While the study found an association between parental anxiety and depression and their children’s eating habits, it wasn’t designed to prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on picky eaters.