What can stop the “pester power”? A longitudinal study on the impact of children’s audiovisual media consumption on media-motivated food purchase requests

Alice Binder, Jörg Matthes

Background: In modern audiovisual media, children are confronted with an endless stream of food advertising. Thus, companies can undermine parents' best efforts to feed their children healthy foods. Indeed, parents often describe that their children request specific foods depicted in media, most of which are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar. Objectives: Longitudinal research on the factors influencing media-motivated food purchase requests remains scarce. Methods: In a panel study, pairing data of N = 529 children (6–11 years) and one of their parents (N = 529), we examined how children's individual factors (i.e., age and body mass index [BMI]), their audiovisual media consumption, and different parental mediation styles are associated with parents' perceptions of children's media-motivated food purchase requests. Results: While age was negatively related and children's BMI positively related to children's media-motivated food purchase requests, we found no overall effect of children's audiovisual media consumption. Interestingly, talking with children about foods during or after viewing (i.e., conversation-oriented communication about foods depicted in media) increased media-motivated food purchase requests, most likely by fostering the cognitive availability of food products. Restrictive media mediation exerted a negative effect (i.e., reduced purchase requests). Conclusions: Findings suggest that restricting exposure to food advertising in the media may be more powerful in stopping the ‘pester power’ than previously thought. Thus, policy-supporting restrictions on depicting unhealthy foods in media content targeted at children may be helpful.

Department of Communication
Pediatric Obesity
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
508007 Communication science
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health, Health Policy, Nutrition and Dietetics, Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
Portal url