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Keywords:

  • emotional eating;
  • binge eating;
  • loss of control eating;
  • children and adolescents;
  • overweight

Abstract

Objective:

Eating in response to negative emotions is associated with binge or loss of control (LOC) eating in adults. Although children report engaging in LOC eating, data on emotional eating among youth are limited.

Method:

We adapted the adult Emotional Eating Scale (Arnow et al., Int J Eat Disord, 18, 79–90, 1995) to be used with children and adolescents (EES-C). Fifty-nine overweight (BMI ≥ 95th percentile for age and sex) and 100 non-overweight (BMI 5th–94th percentile) participants (mean age ± SD 14.3 ± 2.4 years) completed the EES-C, and measures of recent LOC eating and general psychopathology. Test-retest reliability was assessed in 64 children over a 3.4 ± 2.6 month interval.

Results:

A factor analysis generated three subscales: eating in response to anxiety, anger, and frustration (EES-C-AAF), depressive symptoms (EES-C-DEP), and feeling unsettled (EES-C-UNS). Internal consistency for the subscales was established; Cronbach's alphas for the EES-C-AAF, EES-C-DEP, and EES-C-UNS were 0.95, 0.92, and 0.83, respectively. The EES-C had good convergent validity: children reporting recent LOC eating episodes scored higher on all subscales (p's < 0.05). The EES-C-AAF and EES-C-UNS subscales demonstrated good discriminant validity and the EES-C-DEP revealed adequate discriminant validity. Intra-class correlation coefficients revealed good temporal stability for each subscale (EES-C-AAF = 0.59, EES-C-DEP = 0.74, EES-C-UNS = 0.66; p's < 0.001).

Conclusion:

The EES-C has good convergent and discriminant validity, and test-retest reliability for assessing emotional eating in children. Further investigation is required to clarify the role emotional eating may play in children's energy intake and body weight. © 2007 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2007