9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Institutions and Everyday Life Building II, C6.02

Children's Everyday Lives and Food Practices in Residential Care: Juggling Tensions Between "Home", "Institution" and Workplace

Perceptions of the "normal" or "average" family home as the social environment for the upbringing of children often inform how residential care staff seek to create a home for children in care. However, conflicting with the ideal of the family home is the regimentation of children's everyday lives through rules and structures which mark the home as an institution. This paper looks at rituals and routines around food in three residential care homes to illustrate how this divide between the family home and the institution is attempted to be bridged. Within residential care, food can be perceived as a key for the creation of a nurturing "family-like" environment but it often also constitutes the site where the institutionalisation of everyday life is most visible and where power asymmetries are played out across and between the generations. Daily interactions around food highlight the difficulties of juggling the tensions of residential care homes being a workplace, an institution and a home for children. The paper draws on ethnographic data collected in three residential care homes for children in three age groups (9-13, 12-16, and 16-18 year olds) in Scotland.