Family meals: the meanings of the family meal from a multi-person perspective

Henshaw, Kamena (2013) Family meals: the meanings of the family meal from a multi-person perspective. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Whilst many claims are made about the importance of families eating together, linked to the concept of the family meal ‘ideal’, little is understood about the content of these mealtime interactions. This thesis explores the underlying family processes that occur during a family meal, using the theoretical framework of family process theory (Kantor & Lehr, 1975). The study aimed to compare and contrast the different family members’ perceptions of family meals, both within and between the families, and examine the themes of gender and generation in relation to food provisioning. The study adopted a qualitatively driven mixed methods approach, utilising photographs, interviews, floor plans and questionnaire data, to add layers of meaning to the analysis. Questionnaire data from 213, 14-15 year old, young people was initially gathered from three regionally similar schools to identify contemporary family meal patterns and to gain access to the interview sample. Twelve families were subsequently recruited which led to 37 interviews with mothers, fathers and their sons/daughters in this small East Anglian sample. The key findings from the study were that mealtime interactions provided the space and time for families to communicate, deal with conflict, make decisions and plan ahead – central first order family processes that enable families to achieve their ‘goals’ of affect, meaning and power (Kantor & Lehr, 1975). Additionally the everyday activity of ‘food and eating in the family home’ provided access into these private domains and afforded a valuable ‘window’ into the deeper family processes, conceptualised as family paradigms, which guide and influence family life. Importantly the study found that ‘the family meal’ was not a homogenous concept and, whilst still perceived as important, varied in relation to its composition, location, timing and content, both physical and emotional.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2020 10:30
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2020 10:30


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