Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Anita Fuglestad

Second Advisor

Dr. Lisa Byrge

Department Chair

Dr. Jody Nicholson

College Dean

Dr. Kaveri Subrahmanyam


Emotional overeating is defined as eating in response to negative emotions, and the shift from emotional undereating to overeating around the preschool years indicates environmental influences. Parent feeding practices such as using food to regulate emotions and behavior may impede children’s ability to regulate their emotions, leading to emotional overeating. This study analyzed the relation between parent feeding practices, child emotion regulation, and emotional overeating in 4- and 5-year-old children. For study 1, mothers of 4- and 5-year-old children completed online questionnaires through MTurk and Prolific. Questionnaires measured parent feeding practices, emotion regulation, and emotional overeating. Parent use of food to control emotions and behaviors was positively correlated with emotional overeating. Additionally, parent use of food to control emotions and behavior predicted higher levels of emotional overeating, and this was independently mediated by Child Emotion Regulation and Child Lability/Negativity. Study 2 was a pilot study examining the feasibility of an fNIRS emotion regulation task in preschool children. Outcome variables included whether children could complete the task, their accuracy across conditions, and the fNIRS signal quality during the task. Although more data needs to be collected to determine whether both 4 year-old and 5 year-old children can complete the task, these initial data indicate that adequate signal quality can be obtained when using fNIRS in preschool samples. Overall, this study sheds light on potential environmental influences and parenting practices associated with emotional overeating in preschool children.