Research Brief| Volume 52, ISSUE 8, P801-807, August 2020

Pester Power: Examining Children's Influence as an Active Intervention Ingredient



      To determine if children's pester power related to a classroom-based nutrition program, Together, We Inspire Smart Eating (WISE), is related to familial dietary habits and parental food purchases and practices.


      Classroom teachers delivered weekly WISE lessons at 7 Head Start sites across 2 states in the southern US. Before and after the intervention, parents were interviewed on the consumption of WISE fruits and vegetables, intake of nutrient-poor foods, parenting practices related to food, and exposure to WISE through the child's pester power.


      After controlling for baseline levels of outcome variables, child willingness to try new foods at baseline, and the effect of state, pester power predicated significant variance in the outcomes of consumption of WISE foods (F3, 229 = 34.7, P < .001, ΔR2 = 0.03, P = .002) and parenting practices that support healthy dietary intake and attitudes for young children (F2, 264 = 77.2, P < .001, ΔR2 = 0.02, P = .006).

      Conclusions and Implications

      The findings of this study highlight the potential for children's influence on food consumption and habits at home.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access

      SNEB Member Login

      SNEB Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Login via the SNEB Website to access all journal content and features.


      Subscribe to Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Lee CKC
        • Beatty SE.
        Family structure and influence in family decision making.
        J Consum Mark. 2002; 19: 24-41
        • Flurry LA
        • Burns AC.
        Children's influence in purchase decisions: a social power theory approach.
        J Bus Res. 2005; 58: 593-601
        • Turner JJ
        • Kelly J
        • McKenna K
        Food for thought: parents’ perspectives of child influence.
        Br Food J. 2006; 108: 181-191
        • Campbell S
        • James EL
        • Stacey FG
        • Bowman J
        • Chapman K
        • Kelly B
        A mixed-method examination of food marketing directed towards children in Australian supermarkets.
        Health Promot Int. 2014; 29: 267-277
        • Papoutsi GS
        • Nayga Jr RM
        • Lazaridis P
        • Drichoutis AC
        Fat tax, subsidy or both? The role of information and children's pester power in food choice.
        J Econ Behav Organ. 2015; 117: 196-208
        • Wilson G
        • Wood K.
        The influence of children on parental purchases during supermarket shopping.
        Int J Consum Stud. 2004; 28: 329-336
        • Baldassarre F
        • Campo R
        • Falcone A
        Food for kids: how children influence their parents purchasing decisions.
        J Food Prod Mark. 2016; 22: 596-609
        • Marshall D
        • O'Donohoe S
        • Kline S
        Families, food, and pester power: beyond the blame game?.
        J Consum Behav. 2007; 6: 164-181
        • Cairns G
        • Angus K
        • Hastings G
        The Extent, Nature and Effects of Food Promotion to Children: A Review of the Evidence to December 2008.
        WHO Press, Geneva, Switzerland2009
        • McDermott L
        • O'Sullivan T
        • Stead M
        • Hastings G
        International food advertising, pester power and its effects.
        Int J Advert. 2006; 25: 513-539
      1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2015–2016. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2017.

      2. Reeves B, Atkin CK. The effects of televised advertising on mother-child interactions at the grocery store. Paper presented at: 62nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism; August 5–8, 1979; Houston, TX. Accessed June 23, 2020.

        • Huang CY
        • Reisch LA
        • Gwozdz W
        • et al.
        Pester power and its consequences: do European children's food purchasing requests relate to diet and weight outcomes?.
        Public Health Nutr. 2016; 19: 2393-2403
      3. World Health Organization. Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world: trans-disciplinary perspectives. Copenhagen, Denmark: World Health Organization; 2016.

        • Castonguay J
        • Kunkel D
        • Wright P
        • Duff C
        Healthy characters? An investigation of marketing practices in children's food advertising.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2013; 45: 571-577
        • Wingert K
        • Zachary DA
        • Fox M
        • Gittelsohn J
        • Surkan PJ
        Child as change agent. The potential of children to increase healthy food purchasing.
        Appetite. 2014; 81: 330-336
        • Ferraro KF
        • Thorpe Jr, RJ
        • Wilkinson JA
        The life course of severe obesity: does childhood overweight matter?.
        J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2003; 58: S110-S119
        • Grimm KA
        • Kim SA
        • Yaroch AL
        • Scanlon KS
        Fruit and vegetable intake during infancy and early childhood.
        Pediatrics. 2014; 134: S63-S69
      4. US Department of Health and Human Services. Subchapter B–The Administration for Children and Families, Head Start Program. Accessed June 23, 2020.

        • Whiteside-Mansell L
        • Swindle TM
        Together We Inspire Smart Eating: a preschool curriculum for obesity prevention in low-income families.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2017; 49: 789-792
        • Whiteside-Mansell L
        • Swindle TM.
        Evaluation of Together We Inspire Smart Eating: pre-school fruit and vegetable consumption.
        Health Educ Res. 2019; 34: 62-71
        • Baker S
        • Auld G
        • MacKinnon C
        • et al.
        Best Practices in Nutrition Education for Low-Income Audiences.
        National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Washington, DC2014
        • Bronfenbrenner U.
        Making Human Beings Human: Bioecological Perspectives on Human Development.
        SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA2005
        • Cravener TL
        • Schlechter H
        • Loeb KL
        • et al.
        Feeding strategies derived from behavioral economics and psychology can increase vegetable intake in children as part of a home-based intervention: results of a pilot study.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015; 115: 1798-1807
        • Freedman LS
        • Commins JM
        • Moler JE
        • et al.
        Pooled results from 5 validation studies of dietary self-report instruments using recovery biomarkers for potassium and sodium intake.
        Am J Epidemiol. 2015; 181: 473-487
        • Whiteside-Mansell L
        • Bradley R
        • Conners N
        • Bokony P
        The Family Map: structured family interview to identify risks and strengths in Head Start families.
        NHSA Dial. 2007; 10: 189-209
        • Hilmers A
        • Cullen KW
        • Moore C
        • O'Connor TM
        Exploring the association between household food insecurity, parental self-efficacy, and fruit and vegetable parenting practices among parents of 5- to 8-year-old overweight children.
        J Appl Res Child. 2012; 3: 1-15
        • Horodynski MA
        • Stommel M
        • Brophy-Herb H
        • Xie Y
        • Weatherspoon L
        Low-income African American and non-Hispanic white mothers’ self-efficacy, “picky eater” perception, and toddler fruit and vegetable consumption.
        Public Health Nurs. 2010; 27: 408-417
        • Horodynski MA
        • Contreras D
        • Hoerr SM
        • Coleman G
        Nutrition Education Aimed at Toddlers (NEAT) curriculum.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2005; 37: 96-97
        • George D
        • Mallery P
        • White M
        SPSS for Windows step by step guide: A simple guide and reference. 11.0 update. 4th ed.
        Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA2003
        • Osborne JW
        • Waters E.
        Four assumptions of multiple regression that researchers should always test.
        Pract Assess Res Eval. 2002; 8: 1-5
        • Taber KS.
        The use of Cronbach'salpha when developing and reporting research instruments in science education.
        Res Sci Educ. 2018; 48: 1273-1296
        • Cortina J.
        What is coefficient alpha: an examination of theory and applications.
        J Appl Psychol. 1993; 78: 98-104
        • Schmitt N.
        Uses and abuses of coefficient alpha.
        Psychol Assess. 1996; 8: 350-353
        • Patrick H
        • Hennessy E
        • McSpadden K
        • Oh A
        Parenting styles and practices in children's obesogenic behaviors: scientific gaps and future research directions.
        Child Obes. 2013; 9: S73-S86
        • Haefner MJ.
        Ethical problems of advertising to children.
        J Mass Media Eth. 1991; 6: 83-92
        • Longley C
        LANA learning about nutrition through activities deluxe kit.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2013; 45: 807
        • Kraak VI
        • Story M
        Influence of food companies' brand mascots and entertainment companies' cartoon media characters on children's diet and health: a systematic review and research needs.
        Obes Rev. 2015; 16: 107-126
        • Young L
        • Anderson J
        • Beckstrom L
        • Bellows L
        • Johnson SL
        Making new foods fun for kids.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2003; 35: 337-338
        • US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service
        The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
        US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Alexandria, VA2017

      Linked Article

      • Influencing Up: Children's Sway on Parents’ Food Choices
        Journal of Nutrition Education and BehaviorVol. 52Issue 8
        • Preview
          Although the feeding relationship is acknowledged to be bidirectional between caregivers and children, most often parenting influences on young children's eating behaviors are investigated through the lens of how parents influence children's eating—either for the good or the not so good. While individual differences, such as children's temperaments or sibling differences, are often referred to as having an impact on food parenting, very seldom is the child's influence on the parent behavior the intentional focus of studies seeking to explain why children eat the way they do.
        • Full-Text
        • PDF