Advertising influences on young children’s food choices and parental influence.
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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether advertising for food influences choices made by children, the strength of these influences, and whether they might be easily undone by parental influences.
STUDY DESIGN: Children between 3 and 8 years of age (n=75) were randomized to watch a series of programs with embedded commercials. Some children watched a commercial for a relatively healthy food item, the other children watched a commercial for a less healthy item, both from the same fast-food company. Children were also randomized either to receive parental encouragement to choose the healthy item or to choose whichever item they preferred.
RESULTS: Results indicated that children were more likely to choose the advertised item, despite parental input. Parental input only slightly moderated this influence.
CONCLUSION: Although advertising impact on children's food choices is moderate in size, it appears resilient to parental efforts to intervene. Food advertisements directed at children may have a small but meaningful effect on their healthy food choices.