Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Eating in larger groups increases food consumption
  1. Julie C Lumeng,
  2. Katherine H Hillman
  1. Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J C Lumeng
    Center for Human Growth and Development, 300 North Ingalls Building, 10th Floor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109–0406, USA; jlumeng{at}


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 (⩾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.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: This work was supported by the American Heart Association Fellow-to-Faculty Transition Award 0275040N to JCL. The study sponsor had no role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

  • Competing interests: None.

Linked Articles

  • Précis
    BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • Perspectives
    R F Drewett