Emotion Suppression, Emotional Eating, and Eating Behavior Among Parent–Adolescent Dyads

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Abstract

Emotion suppression may lead to ironic increases in emotional experience. More important, suppression is a transactional process, creating stress and disrupting interactions for the suppressor and those in social interactions with individuals who are suppressing emotion. However, no research has examined the behavioral consequences of emotion suppression in close relationships. We examine the possibility that emotion suppression will predict eating behaviors as a secondary emotion regulatory strategy among 1,556 parent–adolescent dyads (N = 3,112), consistent with evidence suggesting that suppression influences eating at the individual-level. Actor-partner interdependence models and structural equation modeling demonstrate that one’s own emotion suppression was associated with emotional eating; greater consumption of hedonic—low nutrient, high energy dense—foods; and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables (actor effects). One’s partner’s emotion suppression was also independently associated with one’s own emotional eating; lower consumption of fruits and vegetables; and greater consumption of hedonic foods (partner effects), although this association was most consistent for adolescents’ suppression and parents’ eating (compared with the converse). These analyses suggest that dyadic emotion regulatory processes have implications on eating behavior. Moreover, analyses suggest that emotion suppression has potential implications on eating behaviors of others within close relationships with a suppressor, consistent with the notion that emotion regulation is a transactional process. These findings suggest that interventions to improve eating habits of parents and their adolescent children should consider dyadic emotion regulatory processes.

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