Behavior Influences Kids' Weight

WASHINGTON A new study from the Food Marketing Institute and SymphonyIRI Group compares the attitudes, behaviors and rituals of families with at least one overweight child to those with healthy-weight children. Similarities are more prevalent than expected, but researchers identified some variance. The biggest gap exists when it comes to rules imposed at meal time, with 28% of families with healthy-weight

WASHINGTON — A new study from the Food Marketing Institute and SymphonyIRI Group compares the attitudes, behaviors and rituals of families with at least one overweight child to those with healthy-weight children.

Similarities are more prevalent than expected, but researchers identified some variance. The biggest gap exists when it comes to rules imposed at meal time, with 28% of families with healthy-weight children applying the “finish what's on your plate” rule vs. 38% for families with at least one overweight or obese child.

The research is meant to inform retailers and manufacturers about the best ways to promote healthier lifestyles to consumers.

“There is a lot of opportunity at retail and with manufacturers; however, understanding with clarity the behavior of shoppers is critical to be successful in this space,” Thom Blishock, global president of innovation and strategy for SymphonyIRI, told SN.

A number of factors may influence obesity in children including:

  • Involvement in purchase decisions and food preparation — Children in healthy-weight families tend to be more involved in purchase decisions and food preparation than children in families with one or more overweight/obese child (76% of healthy-weight families vs. 72% of families with at least one overweight/obese child).

  • How often they play — 78% of healthy-weight children play inside for 30 minutes or more per day, vs. 71% of overweight/obese children. Similarly, 84% of healthy-weight children play outside for 30 minutes or more per day vs. 79% for overweight/obese children.

  • Attitudes about health and wellness — Parents of healthy-weight children place a premium on activities that lead to healthy weight, including daily exercise (valued by 92% of healthy-weight family parents vs. 88% of parents of one or more overweight child), access to fruit and vegetables in school (89% vs. 85%) and limiting fast food (86% vs. 83%).

Researchers also found that very few parents of healthy-weight or overweight/obese children visit social media sites for key information. Instead, both types focus primarily on primary care physicians, other medical resources, friends and relatives, and health and wellness websites, books, magazines and newspapers as well as nutritionists/dietitians to gain critical information.

The research is the first in a series that will focus on such topics as the influence of exercise and diet on health and wellness, diabetes and weight management.

FMI's Health and Wellness Advisory Council will also define relevant research topics moving forward. Helen Eddy, assistant vice president of health and wellness for Hy-Vee, and Blishock are co-chairs.

SymphonyIRI and FMI completed the research in April with an independent panel of 1,000 shoppers reflecting a cross-section of U.S. consumers. Surveys were completed online.

The research is an extension of FMI's commitment to helping retailers assist shoppers with health and wellness.

“FMI's collaboration with SymphonyIRI on research related to childhood obesity is a continuation of efforts to provide our members with additional insight on ways to better serve our customers and help them address directly concerns with childhood obesity,” said Leslie Sarasin, president and chief executive officer of FMI.

The “Childhood Obesity: Crisis in America” executive report is available at http://www.symphonyiri.com/Portals/0/ArticlePdfs/Childhood-Obesity_FMI_Final.pdf [4].