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Eating with your mouth shut: Family meals and etiquette

Gallegos, D., Dziurawiec, S., Tilbury, F. and Abernethie, L. (2006) Eating with your mouth shut: Family meals and etiquette. In: TASA 2006: Annual Conference of The Australian Sociological Association, 4 - 7 December 2006, U.W.A./Murdoch University, Perth

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The table and the family meal as sites for the socialisation of children and adolescents are widely accepted. One of the ordinary manifestations of this socialisation is the reproduction of table manners or etiquette, which iterates and reiterates social ties and kinship, social roles and power relationships, especially for children. The table is the place children are taught the rules of the social community in which they live. Given that the family meal has morphed so that it no longer necessarily occurs with the constraint of the table, are rules about eating still observed? This study of 625 adolescents in Perth, Western Australia, illustrates that etiquette surrounding the family meal is, in fact, still evident. Many of the rules relating to bodily functions and movement around the table have deep historical ties; others, particularly those around where the meal should and should not be consumed, reflect the changing dynamics of family meal consumption. Whether or not adolescents conform to, or even acknowledge, the rules is partly due to the internalisation of behaviour codes so that they no longer seem like rules, and to the nature of adolescence itself as a time of questioning rules to establish autonomy and independence.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Copyright: 2006 The Authors
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