Responsibility and resistance: women negotiating the nourishment of children



Publication Details

Maher, J., Tanner, C. & Wright, J. (2013). Responsibility and resistance: women negotiating the nourishment of children. Families, Relationships and Societies: an international journal of research and debate, 2 (2), 193-209.


Childhood obesity is identified as a key public health challenge. Women have been made responsible for this new aspect of 'good' child feeding. In this article we draw on a study of Australian mothers of preschool-aged children to explore how women integrate new demands for healthy eating into their daily feeding practices. We found that these women were highly responsive to discourses of responsibility for 'healthy eating' (and fearful of obesity for their children). Yet, they expressed disquiet about intense bodily surveillance of children and were sometimes sceptical of measures of 'obesity' and overweight. Differing social and economic resources influenced how public prescriptions were mobilised in family food patterns, but all these women were in part resistant to circulating normative food discourses. We conclude that responsibility needs to be more richly defined as including women's resistance and reliance on their own embedded relational expertise with their children.

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