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Pester power and its consequences: do European children’s food purchasing requests relate to diet and weight outcomes?

  • Christina Y Huang (a1) (a2), Lucia A Reisch (a3), Wencke Gwozdz (a3), Dénes Molnár (a4), Kenn Konstabel (a5), Nathalie Michels (a6), Michalis Tornaritis (a7), Gabriele Eiben (a8), Alfonso Siani (a9), Juan M Fernández-Alvira (a10), Wolfgang Ahrens (a11) (a12), Iris Pigeot (a11) (a12) and Lauren Lissner (a8)...



Children may influence household spending through ‘pester power’. The present study examined pestering through parent–child food shopping behaviours in relation to children’s diet and weight status.


Cross-sectional and prospective analyses drawn from the IDEFICS study, a cohort study of parents and their children. Children’s height and weight were measured and their recent diets were reported by parental proxy based on the Children’s Eating Habits Questionnaire-FFQ at baseline and 2-year follow-up. Parents also completed questionnaires at both time points about pestering, including whether the child goes grocery shopping with them, asks for items seen on television and is bought requested food items.


Participants were recruited from eight European countries for the IDEFICS study (non-nationally representative sample).


Study participants were children aged 2–9 years at enrolment and their parents. A total of 13 217 parent–child dyads were included at baseline. Two years later, 7820 of the children were re-examined.


Most parents (63 %) at baseline reported ‘sometimes’ acquiescing to their children’s requests to purchase specific foods. Pestering was modestly associated with weight and diet. At baseline, children whose parents ‘often’ complied consumed more high-sugar and high-fat foods. Children who ‘often’ asked for items seen on television were likely to become overweight after 2 years (OR=1·31), whereas ‘never’ asking protected against overweight (OR=0·72).


Pestering was modestly related to diet and weight in cross-sectional, but not longitudinal analyses. Asking for items seen on television had the most robust relationships across child outcomes and over time.

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