Shackles of care: Family power struggles and negotiation strategies for food provision in adulthood

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    A growing stream of consumer research has examined the family dynamics and consumption practices that come from the changing life stages. This study aims to better understand the narratives surrounding power struggles emanating from continued parental food provision upon the stages of adulthood. The study illustrates the contestations within the family as well as the strategies that recipients use to alleviate these tensions within the context of adult Greek daughters and sons.

    The study used in-depth narrative interviews with 17 Greek consumers together with photo elicitation to examine consumers’ power struggles in experiencing continued food provision within the family.

    The study demonstrates that continued food provision affects the stages of adulthood. The adult children go through a journey of negotiation and struggles of power arising within parental food provision practices. The study demonstrates four power-based struggles and four negotiation strategies to cope with and alleviate the contestations.

    Research limitations
    Such exploration allowed insights to emerge in relation to the narratives of sons and daughters themselves. However, there are two other relational partners – the food providers and the partners of the food recipients – whose perspectives were not captured but would further aid understanding if captured in future research.

    Practical implications
    The authors show that consumption practices at home can be a source of friction; thus, food related practices outside the family home can be encouraged to mitigate tensions. The findings could inform advertising campaigns and marketing strategies regarding the loving yet challenging family relationship.

    Social implications
    The authors encourage mothers to be reflective on the tendency towards continued provision, as the food provision contributes to the daughter and son’s sense of protracted adulthood stages. Insights from the study are applicable to family tensions in other contexts such as the boomerang generation.

    This study focuses on a stage of family life and from a perspective of the recipient, both areas which have been previously under explored. The theoretical perspectives of power are used to contribute to areas of food and family consumption by showing how the provision of food marks meanings of love, but also reveals sources of power and contention. The study also contributes by exploring the role of food consumption in the protraction of adulthood.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2378-2404
    Number of pages27
    JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


    • consumer research
    • power
    • food
    • adulthood
    • food and family
    • consumer identity


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