Between provisioning and consuming?: Children, mothers and 'childhood obesity'

Maher, JaneMaree; Fraser, Suzanne; Lindsay, Jo
September 2010
Health Sociology Review;Sep2010, Vol. 19 Issue 3, p304
Academic Journal
Contemporary Western societies focus considerable policy and media attention on the 'epidemic of childhood obesity'. In this paper we examine the mobilisation of notions of responsibility and consumption in these discussions, and consider the implications they have for women as mothers. In particular, we are interested to explore the potential conflicts mothers face as care providers and nurturers when responsible care is framed as withholding or managing the food consumption of children. We argue that the competing discursive frameworks around mothers' food provision invite further theorisation that explicitly addresses nourishment and consumption as elements of maternal practice and care. We draw on the work of Neysmith and Reitsma-Street (2005) regarding 'provisioning' to undertake a critical examination of the discourses in the 'childhood obesity' epidemic, with particular attention to Australian media and policy discussions. According to Neysmith and Reitsma-Street, mothers are central to social 'provisioning', that is, the labour that secures the necessities of life. This provisioning framework captures paid market work and unpaid caring labour, policy settings and social locations, allowing for a rich conceptualisation of the conditions mothers negotiate as they provide for their children. Taking up the possibilities of this framework, we argue that, insofar as health risks and responsibilities are largely individualised, mothering is framed as primarily about giving, and childhood obesity is considered a disease of affluence and over-consumption, imperatives for maternal provisioning and nurture are potentially in conflict with critiques of consumption and excess.


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