The dramatic rise in childhood obesity is a major concern nationwide. Unprecedented media exposure, drastically decreased time spent interacting as a family, and the consumption of calorie-dense foods are all heated topics of discussion with ties to weight gain. In this research, possible associations are examined between media, social groups and a favorite fast-food restaurant among children: McDonald's. Q methodology was used to analyze the various factors that draw children to McDonald's. With a theoretical background in social learning theory, this study had 29 children rank-order 30 photographs depicting elements of the McDonald's experience. Pictures included the most and least popular food items, social events like birthday parties and eating with family, physical aspects of McDonald's, such as the Playplace and dining area, famous McDonald's characters and celebrities, promotional events and giveaways, like the monopoly game, food coupons and Happy Meal toys. The participants then took part in an interview. Results of the study resemble existing research into what motivates children to go to McDonald's, including the food and Playplace. However, this study also reveals three new factors contributing to the restaurant's popularity for kids: their need to be with friends and family, frequenting the restaurant as a sort of comfortable rite or tradition, and the fame with which McDonald's is associated. The findings suggest the importance of social education about food habits from parents, in spite of an increased dependence on media and peers for information.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





social learning theory, obesity, children, McDonald's, advertising, Q methodology

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Communication Commons