Your Depression and Anxiety Might Make Your Kid a Picky Eater

By
A mother and child
A mother and childPhoto: George Marks

If you were keeping a list of things you can either blame on your parents or be blamed for in the future by your own spawn, get ready to add an item. Research suggests that fussy eaters — kids who routinely reject other foods in favor of cherished faves like pasta and crackers — often have anxious or depressed parents.

The relationship between these two things — parental anxiety and depression and fussy eating — has been noted in previous research, but a new study of nearly 5,000 families suggests that this connection is not only very real, it can happen before birth. In fact, the study found that if a mother was anxious while pregnant, her child was more likely to be a picky eater at the age of 3, even if the mom had resolved her anxieties and was feeling well for the kid’s entire life. Yes, that’s right: Your emotions before birth could make your child reject vegetables three years later.

Fathers aren’t completely blameless, according to the study. Though a dad’s pre-birth state of mind doesn’t predict anything about his kid’s eating habits, his mental well-being after the birth had roughly the same effect as the mom’s.

While we didn’t really need another study to tell us that everything is our fault, at least someone should point out that the term “fussy eater” covers every kid we have ever met. As to what we’re supposed to do with this information? Try not to feel guilty, for starters. Feeling guilty almost certainly causes something else to go wrong.