Behavioral intervention is the only empirically supported therapy for children with eating disorders. On the other hand, parents may be hesitant to undertake behavioral intervention due to worries about potential detrimental side effects on their child’s behavioral health and the parent-child connection. For a study, researchers analyzed the links between behavioral feeding therapy and parental stress, internalizing and externalizing behavior issues in young children, and the quality of parent-child bonding. Sixteen mother-child dyads seeking therapy at a behavioral feeding clinic at a prominent Midwestern university medical institution were among those who took part. At baseline, the children were between 30 and 45 months (adjusted). At baseline and 6 months, caregivers completed the Child Behavior Checklist for ages 1.5 to 5 (CBCL/1.5–5), the Parenting Stress Index, 3rd Edition Short Form (PSI/SF), and mother-child dyads engaged in the Strange Situation technique. Following the baseline examination, the treatment group (n=12) commenced outpatient behavioral feeding intervention, whereas the control group (n=12) remained on the clinic waitlist until after the 6-month follow-up.

Compared to the control group, the treatment group showed reductions in internalizing and externalizing child behavior issues and parenting stress. There were no significant variations in parent-child attachment quality within or across groups. 

The behavioral feeding intervention improved views of child emotional and behavioral functioning and maternal parenting stress. The intervention did not affect the quality of the mother-child attachment bond. More study with a bigger sample size and more behavioral observational measures is required to support the replicability and generalizability of these findings.