Background: There have been ambiguous findings on the empirical relationship 24 between perceived stress and emotional eating. The mediating roles of negative-focused cognitive emotion regulation and reward sensitivity of these relationships, particularly for adolescents, are often overlooked. The objective of this study was to assess the association between perceived stress, negative-focused cognitive emotion regulation, reward sensitivity, and emotional eating in a sample of Chinese adolescents.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 562 adolescents were selected and evaluated based on perceived stress, negative-focused cognitive emotion regulation, reward sensitivity, and emotional eating. Model tests were conducted using serial multiple mediation analyses, controlling for sex, age, household income, and body mass index.
Results: Results showed that perceived stress directly affected adolescents’ emotional eating. In addition, perceived stress indirectly affected emotional eating through negative-focused cognitive emotion regulation and reward sensitivity.
Conclusions: Findings support the hypothesis that perceived stress increases negative-focused cognitive emotion regulation, which increases reward sensitivity and thus increases emotional eating. Implications of these findings for preventive and therapeutic intervention are discussed, and future research recommendations are provided.