Author(s): Lumeng JC, Hillman KH
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: To determine whether children's food consumption is increased by the size of the group of children in which they are eating. DESIGN: Crossover study. SETTING: University based preschool. PARTICIPANTS: 54 children, aged 2.5-6.5 years. INTERVENTIONS: Each child ate a standardised snack in a group of three children, and in a group of nine children. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Amount each individual child consumed, in grams. RESULTS: Amount eaten and snack duration were correlated (r = 0.71). The association between group size and amount eaten differed in the short (<11.4 min) versus the long (> or =11.4 min) snacks (p = 0.02 for the interaction between group size and snack duration). During short snacks, there was no effect of group size on amount eaten (16.7 (SD 11) g eaten in small groups vs 15.1 (6.6) g eaten in large groups, p = 0.42). During long snacks, large group size increased the amount eaten (34.5 (16) vs 26.5 (13.8), p = 0.02). The group size effect was partially explained by a shorter latency to begin eating, a faster eating rate and reduced social interaction in larger groups. CONCLUSIONS: Children consumed 30\% more food when eating in a group of nine children than when eating in a group of three children during longer snacks. Social facilitation of food consumption operates in preschool-aged children. The group size effect merits consideration in creating eating behaviour interventions.
This article was published in Arch Dis Child
and referenced in Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy