Mealtime Rituals: Power and Resistance in the Construction of Mealtime Rules Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper discusses how child resistance is lived on a daily basis through the construction and operation of mealtime rules in four Australian families with young children. It focuses on the sociologically neglected situation of everyday parent-child conflict and resistance and posits young children as actively engaged in contestation and negotiation of power relationships within the family. Analysis of domestic dialogue and conflict episodes demonstrates how mealtime rituals function as techniques of discipline through which young children are normalized. Although resistance and contestation occurred in all families, the construction and operation of mealtime rules were also a regulatory mechanism for constituting boys and girls in different ways. Girls were constructed as helping to prepare, serve and clean after meals, which boys were the recipients of this service from their mothers and sisters.

publication date

  • December 1997