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Food and family leisure

Families play a crucial role in a number of areas of life, including nurturing, rearing, socialisation and protection of children. The family unit is also crucial in maintaining and improving wellbeing as well as providing emotional and material support and the family dynamic is changing continuously.

These changes concern, amongst others, the structure and function of the family and the roles within the family and decision-making process. Typically, the family has been referred to as two legally married parents who provide emotional and practical support, who nurture and socialise their dependent children (Kay, 2003). However, the concept of the family has now broadened to encompass many different family forms, other than the traditional model of a two parent family with children, where ‘dad’ was the economic provider and ‘mum’ the care giver.

As a result, the past several decades have seen changes in, for example, the areas of single-person households, single parents, divorces, first marital age, and same-sex families (Neulinger & Simon, 2011). These changes have led to significant changes in the way families think about, purchase and consume food.

This research project aims to:

  • Explore how changes in the family dynamic influence attitudes and practices towards food consumption.
  • Fill a gap in the research on one aspect of family leisure identified by a preliminary review of family leisure literature.

It is likely that the family or household life-cycle concept, which has a substantial presence in the consumer behaviour literature, will be used as a conceptual framework for this study.

This study addresses a gap in the literature as only very few reviews exist that have a detailed discussion of food consumption across the household stages (Neulinger & Simon, 2011). A similar study was conducted by Pol and Pak (1995), who analysed the eating patterns and healthy eating during various stages of the life cycle. This study used the household life-cycle concept as a theoretical framework and explored food intake in different family formations.  

Key areas of focus of this study may include an exploration of:

  • When families eat
  • How families eat (for example, in front of the television or at a table)
  • Fast food consumption in relation to the family life-cycle
  • Whether purchasing food is a functional or pleasure experience
  • The relationship between family structure (e.g. income, age of children, type of job) and food consumption
  • Food as a social element bringing extended families together
  • The prevalence of ‘special food nights’ (e.g. ‘Fish and chip Friday’)

Researchers

Funding body

  • Faculty of Business and Law, Strategic Research Grant

Timeline

The project commenced June 2013 and is ongoing.

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