Parental roles in the context of everyday family dinner consumption

Marketing & new consumption

publication date 05/12/2016

Parents negotiate their understanding of themselves in the practice of everyday meals as they grapple with contemporary changes in parental roles.
Study about parental roles in the context of everyday family dinner consumption

This study addresses the way parents develop understanding of themselves in dealing with children’s increasing and pressing demands and refusals. The research was conducted in Switzerland. Methods involved in-depth interviews with 13 mothers and 8 fathers in charge of preparing daily dinners, and participant observation of meal activities with them. 

Findings show how the parents' self-transformation process is strongly gendered, as mothers continue to do most of the shopping and dinner preparation. In turn, fathers tend to take more active roles, yet focus on leisure and entertainment. Importantly, both mothers and fathers make compromises in yielding to their children’s demands, even as they strive to accomplish the goals of teaching them good table manners and how to socialize at the dinner table.

Discussion elaborates how parents are inadequately guided by their understandings of fathers’ and mothers’ roles, and feel pressure to compete with fast food and frozen food company strategies that position family dinners as fun. The paper explains the emerging model of pleasure-based parenting that takes place primarily in consumption and in response to competition with the market. Businesses will benefit from greater understanding of the changes in parenting and childhood to support parents in accomplishing their goals regarding family meals. Health care providers, doctors, health clinics, schools and government/ non-profit agencies dealing with families, children, and parents also will benefit from better understanding these family goals and challenges.

Del Bucchia C., Peñaloza L. (2016). "No, I won't eat that!" Parental self-transformation in clashes of role enactment and children's will. Journal of Business Research, 69(1), 145-154.