Children’s pester power and parents’ attitudes to unhealthy food crucial in obesity interventions

29 October 2015

An Australian study has found that children’s pester power and parent’s attitudes to junk food can have a significant influence on a child’s consumption of unhealthy food.  


The study surveyed more than 1300 parents of Australian children aged between 8 and 14 years of age about their children’s diets, in particular the consumption of unhealthy foods.


Unhealthy foods were classified as energy dense but nutrient poor foods, such as treats, lollies, or junk food.


The survey found that consumption of these types of foods by children was greater when:

  • Parents had a more favourable attitude to unhealthy foods

  • Parents were younger

  • Parents reported pestering behaviour for unhealthy foods by children

  • Parents had higher levels of perceived social norms about the acceptability of these products.


The authors found that both pestering and social norms had significant direct effects on the frequency of consumption of unhealthy foods.


They say: “The present study demonstrates that these factors are critical because they independently influence children's consumption of unhealthy foods while also exhibiting a potentially insidious indirect influence through their effects on parents' attitudes to this food category.”


The authors go on to say that this finding lends weight to arguments that environmental factors, such as food marketing, that contribute to both social norms and pestering should be the focus of future interventions to achieve reductions in children's consumption of unhealthy foods.  


They this knowledge has the potential to influence future interventions to address child obesity. 


You can read the article here.