Article by Ariel Chernin in the journal The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Issue 615, 2008, 101).
A large body of research suggests that food marketing affects children’s food preferences, short- and longterm dietary consumption, and purchase requests directed to parents. It is frequently argued that younger children are more susceptible to marketers’ messages than older children because they do not understand the persuasive nature of advertising; however, little direct evidence supports this claim. Employing an experimental design, this study examined the influence of food marketing on children’s preferences and tested whether age (and gender) moderated the effects of ad exposure. The sample consisted of 133 children between the ages of five and eleven. Results indicated that exposure to food commercials increased children’s preferences for the advertised products. Age did not moderate this effect; younger and older children were equally persuaded by the commercials. Boys were more influenced by the commercials than girls. Implications for the study of food marketing to children are discussed.