The social determinants of food

Séverine Gojard, ” feeding in infancy. Dissemination and reception of the standards of child care “, French Review of sociology, 2000, n° 3, pp. 475-512.

The diet in early childhood is especially relevant to observe the dissemination and reception of discourse normative, to the extent that this type of discourse abounds on the art and how to feed her child, and where issues of compliance to the standard are potentially important : it is to grow a “normal” child, and to be “good parents,” The emotional load associated with the task of rearing children strengthens the coercive character of the norm, and the guilt of parents who don’t comply. An examination of the discourse of child-care contemporaries (from recent publications) shows that compliance with the standards of child care is not so easy to accomplish, because the prescriptions, rarely identical from one manual to another, are sometimes antagonistic. For Séverine Gojard, “the way the parents feed their young children is revealing of their attitude vis-à-vis such or such a standard or, rather, their propensity to resort to such or such a questioner, himself a holder ď a standard. “

From a survey by questionnaire on diet in early childhood, the author reveals two models of infant care, a model scholar and popular model1. The opposition between these two models is built on the type of sources of advice used and on the adoption or non-adoption of certain practices which conform to the child care scholarship and absent of the popular uses ; it overlaps with the opposition between the upper classes and popular classes. The existence of two opposite models do not assume a strict partition of the population into two categories ; there is instead a continuum of practices ranging from one to the other. This opposition is above all a conceptual tool, close to the construction of ideal-types.

Women who have spent their childhood in Africa are significantly more likely to breastfeed their child than those which have passed in France, and still more those who have spent in Black Africa as those who have passed to the Maghreb. If they have spent their childhood in a country in Asia or America, they also have a higher likelihood of breastfeeding. In contrast, we observe no significant difference between France and another European country, or in France between the province and the paris region. This influence of the geographical origin can certainly be interpreted as the maintenance, after immigration, traditions of the country of origin.

The second effect on the probability to breastfeed is that of the degree of the mother. All things being equal, the likelihood to breastfeed is increasing with the degree. More exactly, women who have stopped their studies before the bachelor of nursing less frequently than the bachelors of arts, and the negative effect of the net is observed for holders of a Cap ; on the other hand, the women graduates of higher education nursing significantly more often than bachelors of arts. To side effects of the geographical origin and of the school curriculum, the vocational route chosen has a significant influence on breastfeeding : women who have dealt with children in a professional setting have a higher probability of breastfeeding than those who did not occupied. If we now look at the variables that describe the living conditions of the household, we find that women who are on leave at the time of the survey tend to breastfeed more than those who work part-time (between thirty and thirty-eight hours)

The marital status and the occupation of the husband do not seem to exert a significant influence on the probability of breastfeeding. On the one hand, there is little difference in function of the marital situation : single women do not breastfeed more or less, all other things being equal. On the other hand, when the household consists of a couple, the profession of the husband has no significant effect on the probability of breastfeeding. The characteristics of the mother (here measured by its degree and its professional insertion), therefore, have more influence on its likelihood to breastfeed as those of their spouse.

To summarize, it should be noted that two sets of factors are likely to increase the probability of breastfeeding. One is centered on the family transmission of the techniques of infant care : the maintenance of traditions of the country of origin for women who have spent their childhood outside of Europe, but also, irrespective of the place of childhood, the fact of taking care of his brothers and sisters are two conditions that increase the likelihood of breastfeeding.

Another set of factors that are conducive to breastfeeding is the closeness to the forums for the dissemination of standards of child care as legitimate. In fact, the standards learned, and particularly the childcare ” psych “, are currently favourable to breastfeeding. A degree high, index high social position, therefore, a certain closeness with the broadcasters of the standards of childcare that are doctors, and particularly pediatricians, but also a professional training in the field of early childhood are conditions conducive to diffusion, and in some cases the internalization of standards learned.

The duration of breastfeeding

On average, the women surveyed who had breastfed their youngest child for three and a half months, before the start of weaning, for a period of three weeks. These average durations are subject to changes in relatively large : the standard deviation is almost equal to the average for the age at the onset of weaning (2,96) and higher than the average for the duration of the withdrawal (3,82). This is mainly explained by a distribution elongated towards the highest values : at the age of four months, three-quarters of the children are weaned, but then, the duration of breastfeeding ranging up to more than two years. Women who have spent their childhood in a foreign country, out of Europe, breastfeeding for longer than those who have passed in France. The geographical origin is therefore a factor that influences not only the likelihood of breastfeeding but also the duration of it. Similarly, the fact of taking care of his brothers and sisters, we have seen that it tends to promote breastfeeding, promote a late-stage weaning. We also note that some variables that have no effect on the probability of breastfeeding influence the duration of breastfeeding. This is the case of the absence of insertion on the labour market : if the housewives are not breast-feeding significantly more than the other, when they are breastfeeding, it is for a longer duration.

The area of origin of the woman does not influence its propensity to breastfeed, but it affects the time during which she is nursing. The girls of senior management or members of the intermediate occupations nursing in significantly less time than the girls in the employees, and there is no significant difference between girls, staff and girls of labourers, artisans, and farmers.

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