126 Advertising and Child’s Age

Based on research by Ferguson, C. J., Contreras, S., & Kilburn, M. (2013), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Is your child influenced by advertisements of expensive, sugary, fat laden foods, or not?

Psychologists Christopher Ferguson, and colleagues addressed this question from a developmental perspective.  They examined advertising effects on 304 mostly Hispanic children from ages 3 to 12.  The children looked at advertisements with either healthy or unhealthy food choices.  Randomly organized into two groups, the children’s parents either encouraged them to select healthy foods, or to pick the option the child preferred.  Which free coupon did the child select, a healthy or an unhealthy choice? Results revealed a developmental trend.  Young children, ages 3-5, were influenced the most by the advertisements; those children 6-8 years old were more influenced by their parents, whereas the older children ages 9-12 were not impacted by either.  Perhaps they had established their food preferences when younger.

Conclusion? Children of different ages respond differently to advertisements and encouragement from parents.  While younger children’s eating habits are more susceptible to advertising, those between 6-8 respond better to their parent’s encouragement and reasoning.  Depending on the age of your child, help them develop healthy eating habits: limit their exposure to unhealthy advertisements, serve them nutritious foods at home, and encourage them to make healthy choices!


Ferguson, C. J., Contreras, S., & Kilburn, M. (2013). Advertising and Fictional Media Effects on Healthy Eating Choices in Early and Later Childhood.

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