Emotional availability, understanding emotions, and recognition of facial emotions in obese mothers with young children

Professorship/Faculty: Personality Psychology and Psychological Assessment  
Author(s): Bergmann, Sarah; von Klitzing, Kai; Keitel-Korndörfer, Anja; Wendt, Verena; Grube, Matthias; Herpertz, Sarah; Schütz, Astrid  ; Klein, Annette M.
Title of the Journal: Journal of Psychosomatic Research
ISSN: 0022-3999
Publisher Information: New York, NY : Elsevier
Year of publication: 2016
Volume: 80
Pages: 44-52
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.11.005
Recent research has identified mother–child relationships of low quality as possible risk factors for childhood obesity. However, it remains open how mothers' own obesity influences the quality of mother–child interaction, and particularly emotional availability (EA). Also unclear is the influence of maternal emotional competencies, i.e. understanding emotions and recognizing facial emotions. This study aimed to (1) investigate differences between obese and normal-weight mothers regarding mother–child EA, maternal understanding emotions and recognition of facial emotions, and (2) explore how maternal emotional competencies and maternal weight interact with each other in predicting EA. A better understanding of these associations could inform strategies of obesity prevention especially in children at risk.

We assessed EA, understanding emotions and recognition of facial emotions in 73 obese versus 73 normal-weight mothers, and their children aged 6 to 47 months (Mchild age = 24.49, 80 females).

Obese mothers showed lower EA and understanding emotions. Mothers' normal weight and their ability to understand emotions were positively associated with EA. The ability to recognize facial emotions was positively associated with EA in obese but not in normal-weight mothers. Maternal weight status indirectly influenced EA through its effect on understanding emotions.

Maternal emotional competencies may play an important role for establishing high EA in interaction with the child. Children of obese mothers experience lower EA, which may contribute to overweight development. We suggest including elements that aim to improve maternal emotional competencies and mother–child EA in prevention or intervention programmes targeting childhood obesity.
Keywords: children, emotional availability, emotions, mother-child interaction, obesity
Peer Reviewed: Ja
International Distribution: Ja
Open Access Journal: Ja
Document Type: Article
URI: https://fis.uni-bamberg.de/handle/uniba/40943
Year of publication: 15. September 2016