Food in children and young people’s lives: ambiguous agency and contested moralities

Tatlow-Golden, Mimi (2018). Food in children and young people’s lives: ambiguous agency and contested moralities. In: Montgomery, Heather and Robb, Martin eds. Children and young people's worlds. Bristol: Policy Press.


The domain of food is one of the very first forms of awareness that young children acquire. It encompasses the earliest sensations, tastes, interactions, words and concepts children learn; it is central to their lives and everyday thinking and linked to their development and health. Food is a key feature of children’s most important relationships with their parents, carers and other family members and often plays an important role in relationships with friends and other peers. It can also mark generational and cultural identities as well as moralities of health, childhood and consumerism. Chapter One of this volume argued for a rapprochement between two of the key disciplines exploring children and childhoods, developmental psychology and Childhood and Youth Studies (CYS). In this chapter I will draw on research from both disciplines to consider the practices and discourses enacted by a variety of social and economic actors regarding food in children and young people’s lives and what impact these may have. As a chapter cannot give a fully comprehensive account of food in children and young people’s lives, here I will consider the following themes: Discourses, moralities, identities; Control, agency, autonomy; and ‘Big Food’ and the construction of children’s desires.

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