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Mum weighs in

September 2006

The kids' health dilemma has been a topic of vital concern for several years throughout American culture. The World Health Organization, among others, sees the detrimental effects of childhood obesity having global implications, greatly affecting both developed and developing nations worldwide.

The media regularly give broad coverage not only to state and federal government policy and political statements, but also to anecdotal consumer features, which are long on opinion but short on facts. It therefore seemed appropriate to conduct responsible research among both mothers and kids in order for the consumers who are directly involved to have a voice, as well.

The Geppetto Group originally asked kids to give their point of view on healthy food and eating habits, taste and food preferences and the issue of overweight children in their breakthrough study Kids, Food and the Health Dilemma. This year we conducted a quantitative study with 1,375 moms of kids 8 – 13 via an online panel through Weekly Reader Research. 

The research included multi-dimensional data on the kid/mom influence dynamic, mom's  point of view on the obesity issue, household eating habits and who she holds responsible, her beliefs concerning nutrition and her kids' perceptions and behaviors, and her own attitudes toward kid marketing. Moms also had the opportunity to talk about how they think of their lives, the affect of cultural judgments, her regrets and her sources of pride.

The findings dispelled a variety of the cultural ‘myths.'

Some of the highlights:

  • Children's influence on kid products very rarely end up in an argument where either the parent or the child ends up being frustrated or disappointed.  Despite what has been labeled as the “Nag Factor' or “Pester Power,” on average, across 33 kid categories, only 5% of moms felt this was in fact operating in her home.  44% of moms felt that these purchases were largely her decision, and that is why there was no argument. Interestingly, 24% of the time there was no argument because mom felt the decision was rightfully their child's, and she was happy to acquiesce!
  • Mom is happy to let her child exercise choice. On average, 43% of moms said they almost always let their child choose the brand he/she wants, and 78% said they allow the child to choose almost always or most of the time.
  • When given the choice between continuing to have commercial television sponsored by advertisers of kid products, or having no commercial television, but no commercials to their kids either, 83% of moms voted to keep television programming the way it is, sponsored by marketing.
  • Moms are teaching their kids nutrition, with mixed results. Apparently, concerns that with so many moms in the work force, they do not have the time to teach children about nutrition are largely not accurate.  Half of moms (53%) spend time teaching them, and feel it's paying off in the food and beverage choices their child makes.  A third of moms spend time teaching their kids, but feel their children don't care about nutrition, and only eat what they like. Only 14% of moms don't teach their kids about nutrition. Working moms were even more likely to speak with their children about nutrition issues.
  • The great majority of moms don't hold marketing responsible for obesity.
    Two thirds (61%) feel their child needs to learn and practice better eating habits.
    Two thirds (61%) feel it is their responsibility as a parent to help their child eat right.  Only 14% feel that the tasty snacks that food companies make are too tempting for their child to resist.

Moms actually want marketers to be their partners in helping their kids eat right.  Moms said they would like marketers to help them by:

  • Making healthy products seem cool and fun for kids (75%)
  • Make more healthy products my kids would enjoy eating (56%)
  • Sponsor or fund programs that teach children healthy habits  (48%)
  • Sponsor or fund physical activities for kids (48%)
  • Fund ways to help me teach healthy habits to my family (30%)

Moms are concerned about their children's nutrition, and are paying attention. Over half (56%) really work to balance their child's food each day and 70% say they worry about what their child eats.

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About the author

Rachel Geller
Chief Strategic Officer
The Geppetto Group
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