Sweet Christmas: Do overweight and obese children associate special events more frequently with food than normal weight children?

C. Martijn*, S. Pasch, A. Roefs

*Corresponding author for this work

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This study examined children's spontaneous associations of special events with food. Children in primary education (N=111, age between 10 - 13 years) at a school in Germany wrote down their first five associations with five special or festive events (Christmas, holidays, weekend, carnival and birthday). After completing the free-word association test, they were offered a choice between a candy and a toy. Finally, their body mass index (BMI) was measured. The first prediction was that overweight and obese children would associate special events more often with food than normal weight and leaner children. The second prediction was that choice for a candy would be predicted by a higher number of food-related associations. The first hypothesis was not supported: BMI was negatively related to number of food-related associations (the lower the BMI, the more food-related associations). The second hypothesis was also not supported: There was no relation between number of food-related associations and choice for a candy or toy. A possible explanation for the finding that leaner children reported more food-related associations is that for them specific sweets and snack food are more exclusively connected to special occasions than for overweight children. Speculatively, this may be the result in differences in food parenting styles between parents of heavier and leaner children. Parents of leaner children often have a more restrictive style, i.e., reserving specific foods for specific, relatively rare occasions whereas parents of overweight children adopt more liberal food rules.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-431
Issue numberJanuary
Early online date15 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

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