Study: Kids Nag Parents Into Buying Junk Food

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — We already know that cartoon characters persuade children to want the cereal they are endorsing, but a new study suggests that they also play a part in getting parents to buy the brand as well.

The study, set to appear in the August issue of the Journal of Children and Media, found that parents cave and buy cereals and other products that have little nutritional value because their children nag them until they do, and that nagging is prompted by the recognizable characters and logos on the cereal boxes.

“Our study indicates that while overall media use was not associated with nagging, one’s familiarity with commercial television characters was significantly associated with overall and specific types of nagging,”  said Dina Borzekowski, senior author of the study, in a press release. “In addition, mothers cited packaging, characters and commercials as the three main forces compelling their children to nag.”

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health made the discovery after interviewing 64 mothers of children age 3 to 5 between October 2006 and July 2007. Participants answered questions about the household environment, demographic information about kids, media use, eating and shopping patterns and requests for advertised items.

After analyzing the responses, researchers concluded that nagging seemed to fall into three categories: juvenile nagging, nagging to test boundaries and manipulative nagging.

Mothers consistently cited 10 strategies for dealing with the nagging: giving in, yelling, ignoring, distracting, staying calm and consistent, avoiding the commercial environment, negotiating and setting rules, allowing alternative items, explaining the reasoning behind choices  and limiting commercial exposure.

Researchers said that study was meant to give insight into which strategies can be used to control the childhood obesity epidemic.

The most commonly cited strategies for dealing with nagging was actually limiting exposure to commercials, with 36% of mothers saying they used this tactic, while 35% advocated explaining to children the reasons behind making or not making certain purchases. Unsurprisingly, giving in was considered one of the least effective strategies by participants.

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