Research Projects

Marianne O’Kane Boal

Current Research Masters Student

Children, Food and Friendship – Exploring the Links

‘What is the significance of food practices in the conduct and experience of peer relationships of children aged 4-7 in contemporary Irish society?’
The research is divided into two broad categories of investigation; examination in detail of the triangular relationship between children, friendship and food; qualitative participatory research to document the experience of children in terms of eating, sharing, and friendship through narrative analysis of data of children’s experiences and narrative analysis of children’s literature manifested in terms of morality and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ eating practices. Through this research I would like to explore why the links between children, food and friendship have remained largely unexplored. Current commitments in children’s policy and services emphasize the centrality of children’s voice and their participation in matters that concern them (DCYA 2014, Nic Gabhainn et al (2015). This focus has roots in childhood studies from the 1980s onward (Tisdall & Punch 2012); is closely linked to a deeper appreciation of children’s rights; and manifests in contemporary research that privileges children’s perspectives and children’s culture. In this context, there is a gap in knowledge in relation to the importance of food in children’s own lives, as extant literature focuses on food in family and institutional contexts. Very little work has addressed food as an element of children’s friendships, a key aspect of their lives. Neely et al. (2014) have conducted thematic analysis on young people’s food practices and social relationships. They identify eight analytical themes reflecting qualities of social relationships mediated by food practices: caring, talking, sharing, integrating, trusting, reciprocating, negotiating and belonging. The review provides an excellent analytical framework for the connections between food and social relationships that is being drawn on for this proposed study. The projected outcome is a better theoretical and empirical understanding and knowledge of children’s friendship practices as they relate to food and eating


25 Nov 2017, Paper presented entitled ‘Why have the links between children, food and friendship remained largely unexplored?’ Sociological Association of Ireland, Annual Postgraduate Conference 2017