October 6th, 2011

Study Suggests that Children’s Food Choices are Affected by Direct Advertising and Parental Influenc

The Journal of Pediatrics

Directly advertising food items to children worries many parents and health care providers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have expressed concern about the negative impact of advertising on children’s healthy food choices. A new study soon to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics explores the relationship between fast food advertisements, parental influence, and the food choices made by children.

Dr. Christopher Ferguson and colleagues at Texas A&M International University studied 75 children ranging in age from 3 to 5 years. All of the children watched a series of two cartoons, with commercials shown between each cartoon. The children were divided into two groups; half of the children watched a commercial for French fries, and the other half watched a commercial for apple slices with dipping sauce. After watching the cartoons and commercials, the children were allowed to choose a coupon for either advertised food with input from their parents, half of whom encouraged their child to choose the healthy option, and the other half remained neutral.

Of the children who viewed the commercial for French fries, 71% chose the coupon for French fries if their parents remained neutral. However, the number only dropped to 55% when the children were encouraged by their parents to choose the healthier option. “Parental encouragement to eat healthy was somewhat able to help undo the message of commercials, although the effects of parents were smaller than we had anticipated,” Dr. Ferguson explains. Of the children who viewed the commercial for apple slices with dipping sauce, only 46% picked French fries when their parents remained neutral; this number dropped to 33% when their parents encouraged them to pick the healthier option.

Read more: http://bit.ly/r0JH7Z

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