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Kids Nagging Prompts Moms Unhealthy Food Choices

August 16, 2011

2 Min Read
Kids Nagging Prompts Moms Unhealthy Food Choices

BALTIMOREWalk down any cereal or snack aisle at the grocery store and you will probably witness a young child relentlessly nagging their parents to purchase unhealthy foods until they give in. A new study published in the Journal of Children and Media reveals the majority of moms cite packaging, characters and commercials as the three main forces compelling their children to nag.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health interviewed 64 mothers of children ages 3 to 5 years between October 2006 and July 2007. Researchers selected mothers as interview subjects because they are most likely to act as nutritional gatekeepers" for their household and control the food purchasing and preparation for small children. The moms answered questions about the household environment, themselves, their childs demographics, media use, eating and shopping patterns, and requests for advertised items. They also were asked to describe their experiences and strategies for dealing with the Nag Factor"the tendency of children, who are bombarded with marketers messages, to unrelentingly request advertised items.

Clearly, children are not the primary shoppers in the households, so how do child-oriented, low-nutrition foods and beverages enter the homes and diets of young children? Our study indicates that while overall media use was not associated with nagging, ones familiarity with commercial television characters was significantly associated with overall and specific types of nagging. In addition, mothers cited packaging, characters, and commercials as the three main forces compelling their children to nag," the researchers said.

When it comes to the most commonly cited strategies for dealing with nagging, 36% of mothers suggested limiting commercial exposure and 35% of mothers suggested explaining to children the reasons behind making or not making certain purchases. Giving in was consistently cited as one of the least effective strategies.

To address childhood obesity, the researchers said it may be necessary to limit the amount of food and beverage advertising shown on commercial television and other media, as this may lessen childrens nagging for unhealthy items.

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