Is there an “ideal feeder”? How healthy and eco-friendly food consumption choices impact judgments of parents

Abstract

On top of working longer hours in paid employment and spending more time actively caring for children, parents, especially mothers, also feel pressured to safeguard the health of their children and the planet through their food consumption choices. Surprisingly, little evidence identifies whether the health value and environmental impact of food consumption choices impact judgments of parents’ abilities, morality, or general worth. We address this gap by drawing on an experiment administered to an online convenience sample of the United States adult population (n = 1603). We find that the health value of a parent’s consumption choices only influences judgments of mothers, not fathers. Judgments of mothers and fathers are influenced by the environmental impact of their consumption choices. To add depth to these findings, we draw on supplementary interview data collected from 63 socioeconomically diverse residents of Washington State. The qualitative data demonstrate that people tend to ascribe the responsibility to make consumption choices to mothers, not fathers, and that participants value eco-friendly consumption because it represents a substantial commitment to a healthy lifestyle. These findings demonstrate that in the parenting context, consumption decisions influence social judgments and that food’s presumed health and environmental impact shape “feeding ideals” in gendered ways. Our evidence suggests the social costs for not meeting these ideals are more severe for mothers than for fathers.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Similar to other online survey systems, like Mechanical Turk, Prolific allows researchers to post surveys to their population of interest. Researchers pay participants to complete their survey.

  2. 2.

    This question was modified from the questionnaire used for the Mass Observation Archive as described in Adams and Raisborough’s (2010) paper on ethical consumption.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by Emily Huddart Kennedy’s New Faculty Seed Grant from Washington State University. Jacobs Hammond, Darcy Hauslik, and Jesse Mendiola provided research assistance for the interview portion of this study. Finally, we thank Josée Johnston who offered valuable commentary on the survey portion of this study.

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Correspondence to Emily Huddart Kennedy.

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Kennedy, E.H., Kmec, J.A. Is there an “ideal feeder”? How healthy and eco-friendly food consumption choices impact judgments of parents. Agric Hum Values 36, 137–151 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-018-09904-z

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Keywords

  • Green consumption
  • Health
  • Food
  • Parenting
  • Judgments