This is interesting: According to a study just published, preschoolers consume 30% more food when eating in large groups compared to small groups. Kids between the ages of two and six were studied when eating in groups of three and nine. The researchers found that group size and snack duration were significant and independent predictors of the amount that children will eat.
This is a phenomenon referred to as social facilitation and it’s seen in adults. Studies have demonstrated that adults eat 30% to 50% more when eating in groups compared to eating alone.
Can we extrapolate this for picky eaters? Probably. Children with other issues such as oral sensory aversion (gagging with complex textures) will often overcome their aversion in social feeding circumstances. In other words, children with feeding disorders can, in some cases, overcome their difficulties among their peers. This is probably more powerful once children hit four or five year of age, or once the biological drive to eat becomes mediated by social and environmental forces.
This is interesting given the recent New England Journal of Medicine article on social networks and obesity. Essentially, our friends and the company we keep may help determine the way we eat and the way we look. And kids seem to be no different.