Finding: Most children ages 8 years and under do not effectively comprehend the persuasive intent of marketing messages, and most children ages 4 years and under cannot consistently discriminate between television advertising and programming. The evidence is currently insufficient to determine whether or not this meaningfully alters the ways in which food and beverage marketing messages influence children.


Unlike age, there are no general theoretical reasons to suppose that boys may be differentially affected by food and beverage advertising as compared to girls. Eight studies that examined television advertising and precursors of diet tested gender as a potential statistical moderator. Of these, six studies found that gender was not significant as a moderator. Of the two finding that gender was a significant moderator, both (Miller and Busch, 1979; Pine and Nash, 2003) found that girls’ product preference was more influenced by advertising than was boys’. Five studies used amount of television viewing to measure advertising exposure and tested gender as a moderator of precursors of diet: four found no significant differences, and one (Signorielli and Lears, 1992) found that boys were more influenced by television in eating intention than were girls.

One study tested gender differences in the influence of television advertising on young children’s food consumption (Jeffrey et al., 1982). It found that boys were more influenced by advertising for low-nutrition products than were girls. When amount of television viewing was the measure of advertising exposure in relation to diet, six studies tested gender effects. Two found gender to be not significant as a moderator, two found effects to be larger in boys, and two found effects to be larger in girls.

Twenty-five studies that examined the amount of television viewing (as a measure of exposure to advertising) in relation to adiposity tested gender moderator effects. Of these, 14 found gender to be not significant as a moderator, and 8 found that girls showed larger effects than did boys. Three studies showed larger effects in boys than girls.

Although the majority of studies found that gender was not significant as a moderator, there was some slight trend for greater effects in girls than in boys. This was particularly true for the relationship between when advertising exposure was measured by amount of television viewing and adiposity was the outcome variable. Because adiposity was nearly always measured as BMI, some caution is needed in interpreting this relationship. There is some evidence that BMI may be a more appropriate measure of adiposity in girls, especially adolescents, than in boys (Sardinha et al., 1999).

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