Food Practices and Employed Families with Younger Children

  • O'Connell, Rebecca (PI)
  • Brannen, Julia (CoI)
  • Mooney, Ann (CoI)
  • Owen, Charlie (Researcher)
  • Simon, Antonia (Researcher)
  • Knight, Abigail (Researcher)
  • Hollingworth, Katie (Researcher)

Project: Research

Project Details


Funder: Economic and Social Research Council, Food Standards Agency
Value: £300,154
Description: Research suggests that the nation's diet will be more likely to improve if healthy eating policies take into account changing patterns of family life. This mixed methods study aims to map and understand the effects of a major social change upon the quality of children’s diets, namely the rise of maternal/dual parental employment in the UK. The study takes as its starting point that children’s nutrition and food practices take place not only in their homes but in a range of contexts. The quantitative analysis of secondary data hypothesises and examines associations between diet and parental employment status while the qualitative part of the study inductively explores the contextual meanings of ‘food use’ in working families, the embodiment of food practices, and their embeddedness in different social contexts (inside and outside the home). The study is funded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) from October 2009 to September 2011. Aims of the study The study addresses three key research questions: • How does parental employment influence and shape family food practices, in particular the diets of children aged 1.5 to 10 years? • How do parents’ experiences of negotiating the demands of 'work' and 'home' affect domestic food provisioning in families? • What foods do children of working parents eat in different contexts – home, childcare and school - and how do children negotiate food practices? Design of the study The study interrogates the 2009 National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), the Health Survey for England and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to examine in relation to diet the associations found in other studies between childhood overweight and parental employment. Secondary analysis is followed by an intensive study of 48 working families sampled from the NDNS and selected according to income level and the quality of children’s diets. This part of the study seeks to provide explanations for statistical associations found (or not found) in the survey data. It employs qualitative methods, including interviews and photo elicitation, to understand the social processes which influence healthier and less healthy diets of children both within and outside the home. Research team
Effective start/end date30/09/0930/09/11


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