Parents who cut up their children's food into bite-sized pieces have calmer kids at mealtimes. But if they gnaw on apples and drumsticks with their front teeth, they're more aggressive.
The latest research from the How Did They Get Funding for THAT? Laboratory found that 6 to 10-year-old food-holding munchers were 'twice as likely to disobey adults' and were 'twice as likely to be aggressive towards other kids' at the dinner table.
Researchers at Cornell University in the States observed primary school children for two days at a 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 counsellors instructed the children to stay inside a circle with a radius of 2.7 metres.
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 behaviours, such as jumping and standing on the picnic tables.
Results from both the counsellors 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.
The children who were served chicken on the bone also left the circle without permission more frequently and were more likely to jump and stand on the picnic tables.
In conclusion, the researchers note that when children need to bite into food with their front teeth, they are more likely to get rowdy.
Brian Wansink, Professor and Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, said: "If you want a nice quiet, relaxing meal with your kids, cut up their food."
And he had different bottom line advice for school lunchroom staff: "If drumsticks, apples, or corn on the cob is on the menu, duck!"
How ludicrous is this?