Monday, 3 June 2013

‘We don’t have like lollies in our house and stuff like that [...] so then you just get used to not having them’

CRFR international conference blog #CRFR2013

Hannah Fairbrother is presenting a paper at the CRFR international conference, 10-12 June 2013, Edinburgh 

Children’s relationships with food are high on the research and policy agenda of many nations, driven by the global issue of childhood obesity. Both parents and children make family food choices but, bar a few notable exceptions, there is very little research which explores how children make sense of food in their everyday lives.

I have been looking at children’s ideas about continuities in family food practices. The research draws on data generated through interviews and debates with 53 9-10 year old children in schools and a sub-set of 8 children and their parents in their homes for my Phd study.

Throughout the fieldwork, children’s understanding of themselves as family members was central to how they made sense of their own food and eating practices. Children had a strong sense of and could clearly articulate their family food values and frequently contrasted these with those of other families.  Children consistently emphasised continuities in family food values and practices. They reasoned that:
- Childhood is a key stage in the development of (un)healthy eating practices that are likely to endure throughout a person’s life and even across multiple generations
- Families are the central locus for the development of (un)healthy eating practices, and also other health-relevant behaviours such as smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs
- Unhealthy behaviours, established in childhood and within families, are likely to cluster together as children develop what they characterise as ‘addictive’ tendencies.

These findings have important implications for policy and practice geared towards improving children’s diets. Children’s emphasis on the importance of families is consistent with English health policies such as the Department of Health’s continued focus on establishing healthy eating and physical activity among children and families in its Start4Life and Change4Life campaigns. However, the focus on schools as key settings for health promotion and prevention through the England’s National Healthy Schools Programme and the School Food Plan, amongst other initiatives, contrasts with children’s views; children attached very little value to school in terms of their developing eating practices.

Hannah will be discussing these findings in more detail at CRFR’s 3-day international conference during the Families, Food and Eating session on Day 2, 11th June, Edinburgh. Abstracts are available online: CRFR International Conference 

This research is part of a PhD project looking at how nine and ten year old children in socioeconomically contrasting circumstances make sense of food in their daily lives and how they understand the relationship between food and health. 

The project has also provided interesting insights into children’s understandings of family financial resources and their impact on healthy eating: 

Hannah is currently in the final stages of writing up her PhD thesis. Please contact Hannah at: 

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