Food responsibilities in working families: avoiding maternal blame


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Societal expectations are such that mothers continue to be seen to hold the main responsibility for their children’s health and wellbeing, including their diets. MillenniumCohort Study analysis has recently identified a link between children’s diets and mothers working (Hawkins et al., 2009). This presentation draws on an ongoing study of Food Practices and Employed Families with Younger Children, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council/Department of Health. In the presentation we describe the methodology and give some interim findings from the study.

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Food responsibilities in working families: avoiding maternal blame

  1. 1. Food responsibilities in working families: avoiding maternal blame Dr Rebecca O ’Connell Professor Julia Brannen, Ann Mooney, Abigail Knight, Charlie Owen, Antonia Simon
  2. 2. UK Headlines <ul><li>‘ Working mothers' children unfit ’ </li></ul><ul><li>(BBC News Online, 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Moms' full-time work tied to childhood obesity ’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Reuters, 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Children of working mothers are telly tubbies: Obesity concerns for latchkey kids ’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Mail Online, 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Children with working mothers are six times more likely to be fat ’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Mail Online, 2011)   </li></ul>
  3. 3. Food Practices and Employed Families with Younger Children <ul><li>Funded by ESRC/DH Oct 2009 - Sept 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>Secondary analysis: National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS, 2008/9), Health Survey for England (2007; 2008) and Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) </li></ul><ul><li>Intensive study of 48 working families sampled from the NDNS </li></ul><ul><li>Overarching research question: ‘ How does parental employment influence and shape family food practices, in particular the diets of children aged 1.5 to 10 years? ’ </li></ul>
  4. 4. Avoiding mother blame with a (feminist) sociological imagination (Ilta Garey and Arendell, 1999) <ul><li>Families are economically and culturally situated </li></ul><ul><li>Ideas about children and families are historically and culturally situated </li></ul><ul><li>Families have common and diverse interests </li></ul>
  5. 5. Concluding remarks <ul><li>‘ The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society’ (Mills, 1959:6) </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, ‘ the personal is political ’ </li></ul>
  6. 6. Selected references <ul><li>Brannen, J. and Nilsen, A. (2005). Individualisation, choice and structure: a discussion of current trends in sociological analysis. The Sociological Review, 53: 412–428 </li></ul><ul><li>Ilta Garey, A. and Arendell, T. (1999). Children, Work, and Family: Some Thoughts on ‘Mother Blame’. Working Paper No.4. Center for Working Families, University of California, Berkeley </li></ul><ul><li>Mason, J (2006). Mixing methods in a qualitatively driven way. Qualitative Research 6: 9-25 </li></ul><ul><li>Mills, C.W., (1980), [1959]. The Sociological Imagination, London: Penguin Books. </li></ul><ul><li>O’Connell et al., (2010). Challenges, Innovations and Solutions in Family Food Practices: Linking qualitative and quantitative methods. Conference Paper, BSA Food Society and Public Health, British Library, July 2010 </li></ul>