Skip to main content

Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions

Abstract

This study tested the hypothesis that commonly reported negative effects of sugar on children's behavior may be due to parental expectancies. A challenge study design was employed, in which thirty-five 5- to 7-year-old boys reported by their mothers to be behaviorally “sugar sensitive,” and their mothers, were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups. In the experimental group, mothers were told their children had received a large dose of sugar, whereas in the control condition mothers were told their sons received a placebo; all children actually received the placebo (aspartame). Mothers and sons were videotaped while interacting together and each mother was then questioned about the interaction. Mothers in the sugar expectancy condition rated their children as significantly more hyperactive. Behavioral observations revealed these mothers exercised more control by maintaining physical closeness, as well as showing trends to criticize, look at, and talk to their sons more than did control mothers. For several variables, the expectancy effect was stronger for cognitively rigid mothers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Barkley, R. A., Karlsson, J., & Pollard, S. (1985). Developmental changes in the mother child interactions of hyperactive boys: Effects of two dose levels of Ritalin.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 26, 705–716.

    Google Scholar 

  • Behar, D., Rapoport, J. L., Adams, A. J., Berg, C. J., & Cornblath, M. (1984). Sugar challenge testing with children considered behaviorally “sugar reactive.”Nutrition and Behavior, 1, 277–288.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bennett, F. C., & Sherman, R. (1983). Management of childhood hyperactivity by primary car physicians.Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, 4, 88–93.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bond, M. (1972). Effect of an impression set on subsequent behavior.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 301–305.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brophy, J., & Good, T. L. (1970). Teachers' communication of differential expectations for children's classroom performance: Some behavioral data.Journal of Educational Psychology, 61, 365–374.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burns, G. L., & Patterson, D. R. (1990). Conduct problem behaviors in a stratified random sample of children and adolescents: New standardization data on the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory.Psychological Assessment.2, 391–397.

    Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, S. (1973). Mother-child interactions in reflective, impulsive, and hyperactive children.Developmental Psychology, 8, 341–349.

    Google Scholar 

  • Conners, C. K., O'Donnell, D. J., Wells, K. C., Glasgow, A., Blouin, A. G., Flores, E. G., Horn, W. F., Kelly, T. C., Pointdexter, C., Schwab, E. B., Seidel, W. T., Shaw, D. S., 7 Wingles, M. (1983).The effects of sucrose, fructose, and aspartame on behavior, cognitive performance, and brain function in hospitalized children. Washington D.C.: Sugar Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, H., & Hazelrigg, P. (1988). Personality moderators of interpersonal expectancy effects: An integrative research review.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 937–949.

    Google Scholar 

  • Darley, J. M., & Fazio, R. H. (1980). Expectancy confirmation processes arising in the social interaction sequence.American Psychologist, 35, 867–881.

    Google Scholar 

  • Darley, J. M., & Gross, R. H. (1983). A hypothesis-confirming bias in labeling effects.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 20–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eyberg, S. M., & Ross, A. W. (1978). Assessment of child behavior problems: The validation of a new inventory.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 7, 113–116.

    Google Scholar 

  • Farina, A., & Ring, K. (1965). The influence of perceived mental illness on interpersonal relations.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 70, 47–51.

    Google Scholar 

  • Forehand, R., King, H. E., Pied, S., & Yoder, P. (1970). Mother-child interactions: Comparisons of a noncompliant clinic group with a nonclinic group.Behavioral Research and Theory, 13, 79–84.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldman, J. A., Lerman, R. H., Contois, J. G., & Udall, J. N. (1986). Behavioral effects of sucrose on preschool children.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 14, 565–577.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Harris, M. J. (1989). Personality moderators of interpersonal expectancy effects: Replication of Harris and Rosenthal (1986).Journal of Research in Personality, 23, 381–397.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harris, M. J., Milich, R., Corbitt, E. M., Hoover, D. W., & Brady, M. (1992). Effects of stigmatizing information on children's peer interactions.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 41–50.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Harris, M. J., Milich, R., Johnston, E. M., & Hoover, D. W. (1990). Effects of expectancies on children's social interactions.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 26, 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harris, M. J., & Rosenthal, R. (1986). Counselor and client personality as determinants of counselor expectancy effects.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 362–369.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hazelrigg, P. J., Cooper, H., & Strathman, A. J. (1991). Personality moderators of the experimenter expectancy effect: A reexamination of five hypotheses.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 569–579.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jussim, L. (1986). Self-fulfilling prophecies: A theoretical and integrative review.Psychological Review, 93, 429–445.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jussim, L. (1989). Teacher expectations: Self-fulfilling prophecies, perceptual biases, and accuracy.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 469–480.

    Google Scholar 

  • Merton, R. K. (1948). The self-fulfilling prophecy.Antioch Review, 8, 193–210.

    Google Scholar 

  • Milich, R., Loney, J., & Landau, S. (1982). Independent dimensions of hyperactivity and aggression: Validation with playroom observation data.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 91, 183–198.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Milich, R., & Pelham, W. E. (1986). Effects of sugar ingestion on the classroom and playground behavior of attention deficit disordered boys.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 714–718.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Milich, R., Wolraich, M., & Lindgren, S. (1986). Sugar and hyperactivity: A critical review of empirical findings.Clinical Psychology Review, 6, 493–513.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller, D. T., & Turnbull, W. (1986). Expectancies and interpersonal processes.Annual Renew of Psychology, 37, 233–445.

    Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, J. P., & Shaver, P. R. (1973).Measures of social psychological attitudes (rev. ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: Survey Research Center Institute for Social Research.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosenthal, R., & Rubin, D. B. (1978). Interpersonal expectancy effects: The first 245 studies.Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3, 377–386.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spring, B., Chiodo, J., & Bowen, D. J. (1987). Carbohydrates, tryptophan, and behavior: A methodological review.Psychological Bulletin, 102, 234–256.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Swann, W. B., & Ely, R. J. (1984). A battle of wills: Self-verification versus behavioral confirmation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 1287–1302.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Swann, W. B., & Snyder, M. (1980). On translating beliefs into action: Theories of ability and their applications in an instructional setting.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 879–888.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tallmadge, J., & Barkley, R. A. (1983). The interactions of hyperactive and normal boys with their fathers and mothers.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 11, 565.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Varley, C. K. (1984). Diet and the behavior of children with attention deficit disorder.Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 23, 182–185.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wesley, E. (1953). Perseverative behavior, manifest anxiety, and rigidity.Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 48, 129–134.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolraich, M., Milich, R., Stumbo, P., & Schultz, F. (1985). Effects of sucrose ingestion on the behavior of hyperactive and control boys.Journal of Pediatrics, 106, 675–682.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

This research was supported by the Jesse G. Harris Memorial Dissertation Scholarship, and is part of the first author's doctoral dissertation at the University of Kentucky. Special thanks go to Monica Harris for her support and conceptual guidance at the outset of this project.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hoover, D.W., Milich, R. Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions. J Abnorm Child Psychol 22, 501–515 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02168088

Download citation

  • Revised:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02168088

Keywords

  • Placebo
  • Sugar
  • School Psychology
  • Large Dose
  • Behavioral Observation