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Appetite. 2008 Mar-May;50(2-3):231-9. Epub 2007 Jul 25.

Associations between children's television advertising exposure and their food consumption patterns: a household diary-survey study.

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The Amsterdam School of Communications Research ASCoR, University of Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


In a diary-survey study in 234 households with children aged 4-12 years, we investigated the associations between children's exposure to food advertising and their consumption of (a) advertised food brands, (b) advertised energy-dense food product categories, and (c) food products overall. Relations were examined using multiple hierarchical regression analysis, while controlling for various child (i.e., age, sex, television viewing time) and family variables (i.e., family income and consumption-related communication styles). Results showed that children's exposure to food advertising was significantly related to their consumption of advertised brands (beta=.21) and energy-dense product categories (beta=.19). The relation between advertising exposure and overall food consumption only held in lower-income families (beta=.19). In addition, consumption-related family communication was an important moderator of the relations between advertising and the food consumption variables. Socio-oriented family communication (i.e., striving for harmony and conformity) was particularly successful in reducing these relations. In conclusion, consistent with communication theories predicting spill-over effects of advertising, the impact of television food advertising exceeded the advertised brand and generalized to more generic unhealthy consumption patterns. Theoretical and societal consequences, as well as the important role of the family are discussed.

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