BACKGROUND: Although mothers of young children frequently experience negative affect, little is known about the association between these symptoms and their children's eating behaviors. We aimed to test a model in which maternal negative affect would be related to maternal emotional eating which in turn would be associated with child emotional eating through maternal feeding practices (emotional and instrumental feeding) in a cross-sectional sample of mothers and their children. METHODS: A sample of 306 mothers (mean age = 35.0 years, SD = 0.46) of 2-year-old children completed a survey assessing symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, maternal emotional eating, maternal feeding practices, and child emotional eating. RESULTS: Maternal symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress were correlated with maternal emotional eating (p < .001), and child emotional eating (p < .05). The initial model proposed was not a good fit to the data. Modification indices indicated that the model would be improved if a direct pathway was added between maternal and child emotional eating. As this model was theoretically plausible these changes were made. The resulting model proved a good fit to the data, χ2 = 17.36, p = .098, and explained 29% of the variance in child emotional eating. CONCLUSIONS: High levels of negative affect and associated emotional eating in mothers may contribute to the use of instrumental and emotional feeding practices. Our findings suggested that maternal negative affect has an indirect effect on children's emotional eating, primarily through mothers' own emotional eating and feeding her child to regulate the child's emotions.