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Parents’ and Children’s Categorization of Candy are Similar: A Card Sort Protocol

Savage, Jennifer S., Harris, Holly A., Bleser, Julia A., Rollins, Brandi Y.
Nutrients 2019 v.11 no.10
candy, cluster analysis, diet, educational materials, fruits, literacy, nutrition risk assessment, nuts, obesity, parents, school children
American children frequently consume candy and, in excess, this may contribute to poor diets with attendant effects on obesity risk. Despite the ubiquity of candy in children’s diets, parental concern about children’s candy intake, and the diversity of confectionery products available, very little is known about how children and their parents conceptualize candy. Card sorting tasks offer a novel and visual technique to explore and compare an individuals’ perceptions of foods and are useful where literacy is limited (e.g. young children). This study aimed to understand and compare how young school-aged children and parents categorize various candy products using a photo card sorting task. In individual laboratory sessions, children (n = 42, 5 to 8 years old) and parents (n = 35) categorized 51 types of candy based on their similarity. A cluster analysis showed that parents created more categories of candies than children (11 versus 8). For example, parents distinguished between candied fruit and candied nuts, whereas children tended to collapse these categories. However, 7 clusters were virtually identical between parents and children (93% similarity). The findings from this study can inform the measurement of candy intake and the development of education materials targeted towards parent feeding around candy.