Mothers’ Voices at the Table: Mothers’ Communication about and Perceptions of Their Role in Children’s Nutrition
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This dissertation uses a variety of interpretive methods to complement and enlarge existing research on mothers’ communication about and perceptions of their role in children’s nutrition. I explore the views of 28 mothers of different ages, socioeconomic status, races, and education levels residing in the Bryan/College Station area in central Texas on healthy nutrition and the ways they perceive their own role and responsibility in providing healthy nutrition for their children; how they communicate about it; what shapes their beliefs and understandings; where they get and how do they exchange nutritional information; what barriers and challenges they face; and how they negotiate multiple issues of risk associated with food and eating. By providing an overview of the media landscape and an environmental scan of the current public discourse pertaining to childhood nutrition I identify two main types of stories featured in the popular media: (1) the largely predominant body of media stories, which underscore mothers’ culpability and responsibility and even demonize mothers in the context of childhood nutrition, while rarely bringing important genetic, socio-economic, and environmental factors into discussion, and (2) a relatively small body of media reports and commentary that are solution-oriented rather than critical in nature. With these predominant societal discourses in mind, I use a grounded theory approach to analyzing qualitative data and provide a conceptual framework of the study participants’ communication about and perceptions of their role in children’s nutrition. This conceptual framework shows the effects of the burden of blame and responsibility stemming from the larger societal discourses on the mothers in my sample; how their perceptions of risk and susceptibility in relation to nutrition shape their information-seeking and receiving practices; which sources of information they find most and least reliable; how they communicate to others about healthy nutrition for children; and the role different relevant actors play in these processes. Based on the findings of this study, I firmly believe that mothers’ voices should be more prominently featured in discussions about childhood nutrition, not only in private contexts, but also on the social and political levels, because mothers possess a unique wealth of experience and knowledge in this domain. By expanding the range of mothers’ voices, often obscured by the media sensationalism, we can enrich our understandings of healthy nutrition for children and families, and make the necessary structural and societal changes to improve it.
Sukovic, Masa (2014). Mothers’ Voices at the Table: Mothers’ Communication about and Perceptions of Their Role in Children’s Nutrition. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from