Talking healthy eating - A study of the dietary practices of mothers and grandmothers
Food practices are influenced by numerous factors, including the meanings that food holds and the conception of self and acceptance within a community (O'Neill et al 2004). Generational and socioeconomic differences are also influential with James et al (1997) suggesting that diet has a lifelong effect on the health of socially disadvantaged people leading to "an intergenerational spiral of ill health and handicap." The aim of this study was to identify and evaluate some of the factors that influence the dietary behaviour of women from different generations.
A questionnaire was developed from a thematic analysis of interviews with parents and grandparents. The results showed differences in perceptions around dietary practices between two generations of women. The grandmothers chose and enjoyed "healthy" foods more often, and were less influenced by external forces, Mothers were more susceptible to emotional eating and to external influences. The results of the questionnaire were used to inform the focus groups which raised issues around the environments that determine food choice, and the difficulties that lifestyles and working arrangements pose for many women. Women in both familial roles reminisced about eating and feeding patterns and expressed that foods not made "from scratch" promoted guilty feelings and that anything "fried" or processed was automatically rendered nutritionally deficient.
In the focus groups there was also an emphasis on the environment and how it impacts on food choice. The data reinforced the belief that psychological as well as social and environmental influences are key in understanding why foods are chosen.
Giddens' (1992) theory of structuration has been introduced to explore the impact of environment on food choice while Erikson's (1962) concept of generativity has been identified as an area of research to build on the current findings.
- School of Sport and Health Sciences