Emotional eating, stress, and coping styles in early adolescence.



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Today more than one third of U.S. youth are classified as overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is a serious condition associated with medical complications and psychosocial difficulties. There is an existing need to identify psychological factors contributing to the development and maintenance of overweight and obesity in order to enrich prevention and intervention efforts. Little is known about how stress, coping, and emotional eating are associated with overweight and obesity in youth. The purpose of the present study was to examine associations among perceived stress, coping styles, and emotional eating in a community sample of 277 adolescents. Self-report measures completed by youth include a demographic questionnaire, the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10), the Children’s Coping Strategies Checklist-Revision 1 (CCSC-R1), and the Emotional Eating Scale for Children and Adolescents (EES-C). Four separate multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to determine the interactive effects of perceived stress and coping styles on emotional eating. Independent samples t-tests were conducted to assess differences in perceived stress and coping styles in those classified as low or high emotional eaters. Analyses revealed the interaction between perceived stress and avoidant coping style accounted for a significant amount of variance in the EES-C-DEP subscale score, with avoidant coping styles found to be an important predictor of depressive emotional eating. Additionally, those classified as high emotional eaters reported greater levels of perceived stress and avoidance coping. These results underscore the importance of early detection and interventions for emotional eating through reducing stress and altering maladaptive coping styles.