Modern Western parents spend a lot of time trying to figure out new ways for kids not to be kids and to force their behavior into narrow ranges. Then modern Western spend a lot of time filling out surveys saying they want their kids to be intelligent, creative and independent. 

If you are a parent who wants to mollify the animalistic eating behavior of your child, don't give them a chicken drumstick, cut their food into little pieces for them. Yes, whole foods are causing bad behavior, according to a new paper.

Cornell marketing guru Professor Brian Wansink and colleagues write in Eating Behaviors that, in a (weak) observational study, of 12 kids at a camp over 2 days, when 6-10 year old children ate foods they had to bite with their front teeth— such as drumsticks, whole apples, or corn on the cob— they were rowdier than when these foods had been cut.  

"They were twice as likely to disobey adults and twice as aggressive toward other kids," said Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.


They you have it. Imagine how docile Western kids would be if you chewed up their food for them.


Credit: Daniel Miller

The 12 elementary children were observed over two days at a 4-H summer camp. On the first day, half of the children were seated at one picnic table and were given chicken on the bone that had to be bitten into with their front teeth; the other half were seated at a nearby picnic table and given chicken cut into bite sized pieces. On the second day, the conditions were reversed.

Each day, two camp counselors instructed the children to stay inside a circle with a 9-foot radius. Both meal sessions were videotaped and evaluated by trained coders who indicated how aggressive or compliant the children were, and if they exhibited any atypical behaviors, such as jumping and standing on the picnic tables.


That's drumstick causalation right there. Really, this methodology would get kicked out of any journal not devoted to marketing or social sciences.

Results from both the counselors and coders observations indicated that when children were served chicken on the bone, they acted twice as aggressively, and were twice as likely to disobey adults, than when they were served bite sized pieces of chicken. Furthermore, the children who were served chicken on the bone left the circle without permission more frequently and were more likely to jump and stand on the picnic tables.

Citation: Brian Wansink, Francesca Zampollo, Guido Camps&Mitsuru Shimizu, 'Biting versus Chewing: Eating Style and Social Aggression in Children', upcoming in Eating Behaviors, DOI:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.03.013