AsianScientist (May 6, 2013) – The idea that adults are better equipped than children to resist junk food advertising has been debunked by a new study.
The study, published in Public Health Nutrition, was led by Health Promotion Evaluation Unit Director Professor Simone Pettigrew at The University of Western Australia, who studied the impact of TV and Internet food advertising on more than 1,000 Australian parents and 1,000 children
The researchers surveyed parents and their children aged eight to 14 who viewed advertisements for four commonly advertised energy-dense but nutrient-poor foods.
The maximum age of 14 is based on a previous assumption that up until this age children may be unable to activate the cognitive defenses required to withstand advertising effects. Adults, by comparison, are considered to be skeptical of advertising and able to activate appropriate cognitive defenses.
After watching each ad once, the parents evaluated the products more favorably, had a greater desire to consume the products and thought they could eat them more frequently.
Pettigrew said the study results were particularly significant in public policy efforts to address childhood obesity and reliance on parents to responsibly evaluate and filter the effects of food advertising.
“Adults are thought to have greater immunity to advertising effects relative to children due to their greater cognitive processing abilities,” she said. “As a result, existing food advertising regulations are focused primarily on limiting children’s exposure to advertisements for junk food. But these regulations don’t take into account the broader influence of the sheer quantity of junk food ads, which has the potential to normalize the consumption of these foods in a social sense.”
The article can be found at: Pettigrew S et al. (2013) The effects of television and Internet food advertising on parents and children.
Source: UWA; Photo: espensorvik/Flickr/CC.
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