Relationships between observations and parental reports of 3-5 year old children’s emotional eating using the Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire

Background The Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire [CEBQ] is a widely used, brief, psychometrically sound parent-report measure of children’s eating behaviour traits. However, the relationship between parent report of children’s emotional over-eating [EOE] and emotional under-eating [EUE] using the CEBQ and children’s eating behaviour under conditions of negative emotion has not been examined. Methods Sixty-two mothers with children between 34-59 months of age (mean = 46.0 months, SD = 6.8; 33 boys, 29 girls) attended the laboratory and ate a meal to satiety. Children were randomly allocated to a negative mood induction or neutral condition. Children had access to snack foods for 4 minutes and their intake was measured. Mothers completed the CEBQ. All participants were weighed and measured from which BMI (mothers) and BMI SDS (child) scores were calculated. Results. Adjusting for covariates, children who were rated as higher in EUE on the CEBQ ate fewer kilocalories from crisps/potato chips and cookies when in a negative mood state, but not when in neutral mood. There were no significant relationships between maternal ratings of EOE on the CEBQ and children’s snack food intake in either condition. Conclusions This study provides moderate support for the validity of the EUE scale of the CEBQ in 3-5-year-old children. Further work, including induction of different mood states, is required to explore whether the EOE scale truly captures young children’s emotional over-eating.