Observations of Parent-Child Co-Shoppers in Supermarkets: Children’s Involvement in Food Selections, Parental Yielding, and Refusal Strategies


      The study aimed to collect descriptive information on the decision-making processes of adult shoppers around food purchases when young children are present. Anthropological field observations were conducted on adult-child grocery shoppers. Eleven supermarkets in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan region. A convenience sample (n = 142) of adult-child shoppers at 8 budget and 3 deluxe supermarkets located in diverse urban and suburban areas. Observations registered adult-child interactions over food selections, including parental yielding or refusal strategies and child engagement in shopping. Means and frequencies were calculated for food items considered. In 67 (50.4%) of the total 133 observations, a child initiated a request. Half (55.2%) of the requests were for sweets or snacks. Nearly half (47.8%) of adults yielded to the child’s request. Brands and marketing techniques appeared to be a factor in 28.6% of selections. The most frequent adult refusals either provided an explanation or ignored the request. Adults yield to children’s requests for sweets and snacks nearly as often as they refuse them. However, effective refusal strategies are used by many adults. Opportunities exist in the grocery store for adults to reinforce young children’s interest in food and nutrition.

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