Parents often end up force-feeding their children because of the misconception that children must have enough nutrition. However, a new research says it may not be true.
In fact forced eating might be doing more harm than good, says the research. It disrupts normal eating behaviour and makes children vulnerable to unhealthy weight gain.
In order to promote the development of normal eating behaviour, 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 says.
"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," says Silje Steinsbekk, assistant professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
The findings published in the Journal of Paediatric Psychology show that the way children relate to food and eating is crucial. Physical activity and TV viewing, on the other hand, do not explain why the BMI of some children increases more compared to others.
"Our study shows that BMI increases more in children where food especially triggers their eating behaviour. 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 deal with data from when the children were four, six and eight years old.