Comfort Cravings

How to soothe yourself without food—and how to eat healthfully and mindfully

Kids & Candy: The Marshmallow Test

How Candy Can Turn You Into a Criminal or a CEO

Did your parents ever bribe you with candy? If so, you aren't alone. Every parent has broken down and given their child candy to quiet them down in the grocery store or to provide comfort for a skinned knee. Intuitively, we know it isn't a wise idea.  A 2009 study gives us another solid reason to avoid giving in to kids' demands for sweets. According to a British study led by Simon Moore, kids who ate candy everyday at age 10 were significantly more likely to be convicted of a crime at age 34.

In a nutshell, Moore looked at a group of subjects who were born in the same week. He controlled for many variable, such as economic status, parenting style, education, location of the home etc. From the 17,000 people he surveyed, approximately 69% of people who had been convicted of a crime by age 34 reported eating candy almost every day as a child. (See the study below for additional results).

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Does sugar create a biochemical reaction that leads to violent behavior? The researchers leaned toward a more plausible explanation. It's likely that parents with little disciple did not teach their children impulse control, which in turn, made them more likely to commit a crime.

This study seems to be a spin on the classic study by Walter Mischel. Click here to see a cute youtube video recreation of the Marshmallow Test. Mischel examined a preschooler's ability to delay gratification in order to receive a larger reward. He used marshmallows to test out his theory. Essentially, he found that preschoolers who could delay gratification and wait for the second marshmallow developed into more popular, well adjusted adolescents and scored higher on the SATs. In general, the amount of time a child could wait for a marshmallow was indicative of their ability to deal with stress and frustration.  Kids who can wait longer periods of time are CEOs and doctors in the making.  One must be able to tolerate high levels of stress and years of effort before obtaining a payoff.  

Dr. David Walsh, the author of, No-the Word, Kids of All Ages, Need to Hear and Ways Parents Can Say It appears to agree.  Helping kids to develop limits is essential to their success later in life.   Click here for a video of him discussing his book and his recreation of the Marshmallow Test.

The Lesson:  Should we ban candy?  No.  Candy itself is not a bad thing.  It's just good sense to give kids candy in moderation, to avoid coercing good behaviors with food, and to stop using treats as a reward.

If you want to start your child out on a path toward mindful eating, help them to savor food and delay desserts until appropriate moments. Eating a particular food, like candy, routinely can lead you to lifelong mindless eating habits. Also, you tend to savor foods that you don't eat on a frequent basis. Think of the holiday foods you have once a year. Would pumpkin pie taste as good if you had it every day? Help your kids to eat candy mindfully. You never know, it could impact their entire future.

By Dr. Susan Albers is a psychologist and author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully  www.eatingmindfully.com

Confectionery Consumption in Childhood and Adult Violence
Simon C. Moore, PhD, Violence and Society Research Group, Applied Clinical Research and Public Health, School of Dentistry, Cardiff University, Lisa M. Carter, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Stephanie van Goozen, PhD, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, UK

The British Journal of Psychiatry (2009) 195: 366-367.

 

 

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a psychologist who specializes in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns and mindfulness. 

more...

Subscribe to Comfort Cravings

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?