Mealtime Experiences and Activities: An Ethnography from the Children's Perspective Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Mason, Ashley
    • Affiliation: School of Medicine, Department of Allied Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
  • ABSTRACT Ashley Elizabeth Mason: Mealtime Experiences and Activities: An Ethnography from the Children’s Perspective (Under the direction of Ruth Humphry) This dissertation reports findings from a 9-month collaborative ethnographic study of children’s mealtime experiences and activities in two different settings. Methods included conversations and interviews, participant observation, photo elicitation and drawings or collages to explore the children’s mealtime experiences and activities and their meanings at school and home. I used the transactional perspective and Vygotsky’s activity theory to view children’s experiences of mealtime activity in both settings. The children’s perspective about their mealtime activities and experiences was highlighted in the findings as they navigated the complexity and situational nature of mealtime activities daily. The children underlined three main focal points: (1) social interaction is essential to mealtime; (2) meals are complex, situationally-based moments imbued with sites of social learning; and finally, (3) boundaries are tested and pressed through exercising agency while engaging with others during mealtime. I suggest the following as implications for occupational science: the need to explore more occupations in-depth from populations other than the White middle-class adult female; the importance of inviting children to become more active and ascertain more power in the research process; and the importance of framing children’s mealtime practices as a social endeavor through which ‘appropriate’ behaviors and actions are observed, learned, and practiced over time through a variety of environments. Future lines of research are related to examining mealtime practices in other child populations and exploring other child occupations closely.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Bagatell, Nancy
  • Boyd, Brian
  • Humphry, Ruth
  • Bentley, Margaret
  • Hinson, Glenn
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

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