The Ecology of Some Middle Class Families at Dinner

Candice Feiring, Michael Lewis

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25 Scopus citations


Three-year-old children and their families were observed during a dinner time situation in which all family members were present. Mealtime structure and procedure and verbal interaction patterns during dinner were examined for the sample as a whole and for the effects of family size. The structure of the family system and interaction patterns correspond. It was found that the mother was primarily in charge of the meal situation, preparing and serving the food as well as directing the verbal interaction. Family size was related to the dinner situation in that larger families were more child focused, less orderly and more noisy compared to small families. The results also indicated that the formality of the meal was related to the three-year-old child's verbal interaction with its older sibling. Overall, the results suggest how the mealtime experience, filled with information concerning sex-role behaviour, social manners and habits, and interpersonal relations between parents and children, is a central multifaceted context in which the child's socialisation takes place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-390
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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