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Relating Behavioral Elements of Household Food Negotiation to Childhood Overweight and Obesity


  • Ehmke, Mariah D.
  • Schroeter, Christiane
  • Morgan, Kari
  • Larson-Meyer, Enette
  • Ballenger, Nicole


Researchers working in the fields of family studies and psychology show motherchild relationship dynamics affect the occurrence of childhood overweight and obesity. Many of the significant behaviors they identify relate to negotiation and generosity norms in the household. The primary objective of this study is to test the value of altruistic and collective models of household behavior using the dictator and ‘carrotstick’ laboratory experiments. We also test exploratory hypotheses relating mother’s generosity and child’s punitive behavior and mother-child weight and fitness outcomes using dictator and ‘carrot-stick’ games. The data were collected from 50 mother-child pairs in Laramie, Wyoming. The children were all eight to 10 years old. The mother’s completed a survey to measure family attitudes and beliefs around food and fitness. All of the mothers and children completed a fitness assessment and blood draw to measure their cholesterol, triglyceride, and hemoglobin levels in addition to the economic experiments. The data do not support altruistic models of familial utility maximization as suggested by Becker’s Rotten Kid Theorem. We do find children overwhelmingly influence mothers’ allocations to maximize child, not household, welfare or utility. Results also indicate there is a positive relationship between mother generosity for child junk food the child’s waist circumference. Children who demand punitive behavior in the ‘carrot-stick’ game were less fit and more likely to be overweight and obese. The results of this study offer insights into household allocation processes which effect both mother and child weight and health outcomes.

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  • Ehmke, Mariah D. & Schroeter, Christiane & Morgan, Kari & Larson-Meyer, Enette & Ballenger, Nicole, 2012. "Relating Behavioral Elements of Household Food Negotiation to Childhood Overweight and Obesity," 2012 AAEA/EAAE Food Environment Symposium 123516, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaeafe:123516

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William T. Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Steven G. Liday, 2002. "Bargaining by Children," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2002-04, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 20 Jul 2002.
    2. Martin Browning & Pierre-André Chiappori & Valérie Lechene, 2006. "Collective and Unitary Models: A Clarification," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 5-14, March.
    3. H. Elizabeth Peters & A. Sinan Unur & Jeremy Clark & William D. Schulze, 2004. "Free-Riding and the Provision of Public Goods in the Family: A Laboratory Experiment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(1), pages 283-299, February.
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    Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety;

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