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The effects of television advertisements for junk food versus nutritious food on children's food attitudes and preferences

  • Dixon, Helen G.
  • Scully, Maree L.
  • Wakefield, Melanie A.
  • White, Victoria M.
  • Crawford, David A.
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    Television (TV) food advertising has attracted criticism for its potential role in promoting unhealthy dietary practices among children. Content analyses indicate junk food advertising is prevalent on Australian children's TV; healthy eating is rarely promoted. This paper presents (a) a cross-sectional survey examining associations between children's regular TV viewing habits and their food-related attitudes and behaviour; and (b) an experiment assessing the impact of varying combinations of TV advertisements (ads) for unhealthy and healthy foods on children's dietary knowledge, attitudes and intentions. The experimental conditions simulated possible models for regulating food ads on children's TV. Participants were 919 grade five and six students from schools in Melbourne, Australia. The survey showed that heavier TV use and more frequent commercial TV viewing were independently associated with more positive attitudes toward junk food; heavier TV use was also independently associated with higher reported junk food consumption. The experiment found that ads for nutritious foods promote selected positive attitudes and beliefs concerning these foods. Findings are discussed in light of methodological issues in media effects research and their implications for policy and practice. It is concluded that changing the food advertising environment on children's TV to one where nutritious foods are promoted and junk foods are relatively unrepresented would help to normalize and reinforce healthy eating.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 65 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 7 (October)
    Pages: 1311-1323

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:65:y:2007:i:7:p:1311-1323
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