What Drives Parents to Consume Fast Food With Their Children Research Paper

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Parents and Fast Food

What Drives Adults to Consume Fast Food with Their Children: TV, Toys, and Time

Television advertisements play a role in deciding what we consume, and that marketing is geared toward children no less than it is toward adults. McDonald's fast-food chain, for instance, gears an entire production line called the Happy Meal to children, who -- lured by the toys and tiny meals that are packaged together -- drive their parents to eat with them there (Schlosser, 2001). This is one example of what drives parents to consume fast food with their children. The rationale for this study is to understand some of reasons why parents consume fast food with their children.

Karen Campbell (2006) states that "it is likely that a child's eating behaviours are learnt in early childhood and that the home environment exerts substantial influence on the development of these behaviours (Birch and Fisher, 1998; Campbell and Crawford, 2001). Quantitative studies have considered relationships between children's food choices and various environmental factors, such as the influence of mother's nutrition knowledge (Contento et al., 1993), the influence of television viewing (Robinson and Killen, 1995; Coon et al., 2001), the impact of parental feeding styles (Birch and Fisher, 1998) peer pressure (Birch, 1980) and the role of parental modelling (Birch et al., 1982)." All of these factors may play a part in what drives parents to consume fast food with their children. The Theory of Planned Behaviour provides different components that are useful in analyzing each of these factors cited by Campbell: it relates how attitude beliefs affect decision-making, how normative beliefs form evaluations, and how control beliefs shape outlooks. By using the Theory of Planned Behaviour, this study will be able to show why adults consume fast food with their children.

Some of the social determinants that could explain why adults consume fast food with their children are advertising and marketing on television, ignorance of healthy eating habits, ease with which fast food is obtained (no better or quicker option for filling the need for food), and the "treats" that accompany the act of eating out. Advertising would fall under the normative beliefs portion of the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Knowledge of what is healthy would fall under the control beliefs portion, as would the ease with which fast food is obtained. The "treats" would fill be associated with attitudinal beliefs.

Aim of the Study

The aim of this study is to provide information that will help us understand why parents consume fast food with their children. By providing a quantitative analysis of data compiled through a questionnaire composed through the Theory of Planned Behaviour model, this study's results should help us better answer the question: Why do adults consume fast food with their children?

Methodology

The participants of this study were six adults who completed the questionnaire while dining at McDonald's with their children. I read the questions and statements to them while they ate and asked them to score their responses on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 indicating strong disagreement and 5 indicating strong agreement. The six adults were each from separate families. Three of them were women, aged 28, 30, and 31. Three of them were men aged 29, 32, and 32. All six of the adults said they held full or part-time jobs.

The questionnaire was gaged toward understanding to what extent television, money, time, knowledge, and wishing to please affected the decisions of the adults to consume fast food with their children. The questionnaire focuses on establishing what precisely are the core values to adults who consume fast food with their children.

These questions relate to the Theory of Planned Behaviour model because they provide insight into the ways and reasons why we act. The questionnaire allows us to see what attitudes shape fast food consumption, what subjective norms make fast food an easy sell for adults who have children, and what perceived control beliefs affect parents' outlook on fast food vs. healthy food.

Category

Question

Answer scale

Behavior

How often each week do you consume fast food with your children?

Intention

Do you plan to consume fast food with them regularly?

Attitude

Outcome Beliefs

Evaluation

I believe eating fast food most days will lead to obesity.

Getting fast food is easier than cooking dinner

My kids like the toys that come with Happy Meals

Obesity is something I am very concerned about.

Ease is something I am very concerned about

Toys are more important than eating healthy

Strongly disagree….Strongly agree (scored 1 -5)

Subjective norm

Normative Beliefs

Evaluation

Most of our friends eat fast food

We see the commercials for this food on TV

Eating the same foods as my friends is important to me

TV makes it look good

Strongly disagree….Strongly agree (scored 1 -5)

Perceived control

Control Beliefs

Evaluation

Eating fast food is cheaper than getting food at the grocer and cooking it at home

We all like the taste of fast food and that is why we eat here

Saving money on food is important to me

Fast food tastes better than home-cooked meals

Strongly disagree….Strongly agree (scored 1 -5)

Results

The results of this study are seen in the table below, which shows that what matters most to parents who consume fast food with their children is time, getting what is shown to kids on TV, and eating what tastes good. The effects of obesity and money saved by shopping at the grocery store and cooking at home, while apparent, do not present as much concern to parents as the fact that they are saving time and energy by getting fast food with their children.

Category

Question

Answer scale

Behavior

How often each week do you consume fast food with your children?

How often each day do you watch see advertising for fast food?

5, 4, 2, 4, 3, 5

M: 3.83 SD: 0

10, 5, 7, 20, 10, 5

Intention

Do you plan to consume fast food with them regularly?

Do you plan to consume fast food you see advertised?

Yes, No, No, Yes, Yes, No

No, No, Yes, No, Yes, Yes

Attitude

Outcome Beliefs

Evaluation

I believe eating fast food most days will lead to obesity.

Getting fast food is easier than cooking dinner

My kids like the toys that come with Happy Meals

Obesity is something I am very concerned about.

Ease is something I am very concerned about

Toys are more important than eating healthy

M: 4 SD: 1

M: 5 SD: 0

M: 3 SD: 0

M: 3.83 SD: 0

M: 4.5 SD: 0.75

M: 5 SD: 0

Subjective norm

Normative Beliefs

Evaluation

Most of our friends eat fast food

Eating the same foods as my friends is important to me

We see the commercials for this food on TV

TV makes it look good

M: 5 SD: 0

M: 2.4 SD: 1.3

M: 1 SD: 0

M: 4 SD: 0

Perceived control

Control Beliefs

Evaluation

Eating fast food is cheaper than getting food at the grocer and cooking it at home

We all like the taste of fast food and that is why we eat here

Saving money on food is important to me

Fast food tastes better than home-cooked meals

M: 1 SD: 0

M: 5 SD: 0

M: 5 SD: 0

M: 2 SD: 0.67

Discussion

Karen Temple's 2007 study shows that "watching television may contribute to excess eating" (p. 355). What this study could add to Temple's research is that watching television also leads families to eat more fast food, as all six of the adults strongly agreed that the fast food they ate was marketed to them on television. Likewise, Karen Campbell's 2006 study showed that "active marketing of food to children, via television and other media, was viewed by most parents as an important influence on children's requests for food" -- a finding that is corroborated in this study: all six of the adults agreed that advertising affected what their kids wanted. (Some of the children even sang jingles from the advertising). These findings are also shown by Jason Halford's 2006 study: "Food advert exposure has been shown to influence calorie intake and food choice in 9- to 11-year-olds" (p. 263).

The significant finding of this study is that parents are less concerned about healthy eating and saving money than they are about saving time and getting food quickly and easily. Even though all six of the adults agreed that money could be saved by cooking at home, they cited work and lack of time as reasons for why they chose to eat fast food instead. These points coupled with the fact that fast food is what is familiar to them (through advertising) and offers gimmicks that pacify children (at least marginally), shows what matters most to adults with children: time -- not money.

The limitations of this study may be that other social determinants exist that were not taken into consideration. Why, for instance, is time so valuable to adults…[continue]

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