How do children decide to spend their money on snacks? A new study looked at the factors that inform which foods they chose to buy. For some children, higher prices for unhealthy snacks might encourage healthier choices.
Researchers Monika Hartmann from the University of Bonn and Sean Cash from Tufts University studied how children ages 8 to 11 used their own disposable income, usually an allowance from a parent, to purchase snack food. The researchers presented the children with several snack options — cookies, apple slices, and tubes of yogurt — priced between 30 and 70 cents. The children choose cookies most often, with apple slices in second place. The study revealed that brand awareness was not a primary factor in snack food preferences. What did matter was the children’s experience with handling cash. Those who received a regular allowance were motivated by price, and those who didn’t regularly handle money did not use price as a deciding factor. The research suggests that experience with cash helps children learn what prices mean. Researchers call for more investigation of how price and presentation may be used as tools to combat childhood obesity and other chronic diseases.
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