Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Diet and Exercise in Parenthood: A Social Control Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Diet and Exercise in Parenthood: A Social Control Perspective

Article excerpt

Social control refers to direct, purposeful attempts to monitor and regulate another's health behavior and indirect internalization of norms and meanings of a social role that influ- ence health behaviors (Tucker, Klein, & Elliott, 2004; Umberson, 1987). Theoretical work suggests that family ties such as marriage and parenthood promote healthy diet and exercise through social control processes (Umberson, 1987), yet empirical evidence tends to show that parenthood-in particular, parenting school-age children-is associated with less healthy diets (e.g., consumption of fewer fruits and vegeta- bles) and less exercise (Aschemann-Witzel, 2013; Bellows-Riecken & Rhodes, 2008; Brown, Heesch, & Miller, 2009; Hamilton & White, 2010; Nomaguchi & Bianchi, 2004). In the present study we explored this paradox with one of the first empirical investigations of social control processes in parenthood. Given the social fact that most people become par- ents (Umberson, Pudrovska, & Reczek, 2010) and that diet and exercise are strongly and independently associated with morbidity and mortality risk (Breeze, Clarke, Shipley, Marmot, & Fletcher, 2006; Kant, Schatzkin, Graubard, & Schairer, 2000), a clear understanding of how social control processes shape parents' diet and exercise is necessary for both public health efforts and scholarship on family dynamics.

Social control processes are highly gendered (Reczek & Umberson, 2012; Umberson, 1992), and the meanings and experiences of parent- hood, diet, and exercise differ for men and women (DeVault, 1991; Douglas & Michaels, 2004). Therefore, we theorized that social con- trol processes regarding diet and exercise will unfold in different ways for mothers and fathers. Furthermore, the effects of parenthood on health behaviors appear especially salient when chil- dren are of school age (approximately 6-17) given that this parental stage is characterized by the most time- and energy-intensive obli- gations to shape children's health (see Umber- son et al., 2010, for an overview). As children age into adulthood (i.e., age 18 and older), the meanings and obligations of parenthood change but remain salient. Few studies, however, have examined the effects of parenting adult children on parents' diet and exercise (Birditt & Finger- man, 2012). We analyzed in-depth interviews with mothers and fathers (N = 40) to articulate the social control processes experienced by par- ents of school-age and adult children. Our quali- tative data are uniquely suited to address three specific questions. First, how do parents per- ceive social control processes as shaping their diet and exercise? Second, how are these per- ceived processes similar or different for moth- ers and fathers? Third, how do these perceived processes differ when parenting school-age and adult children (i.e., across life stages)?

Background

Theorizing Gendered Direct Social Control Processes in Parenthood

Nearly all previous studies on direct social control in parenthood have focused on par- ents' attempts to regulate school-age children's exercise and diet through direct social con- trol processes (e.g., telling children to play outside and to eat their vegetables; Baxter, Bylund, Imes, & Scheive, 2005). Few studies have gone beyond this unidirectional dynamic to explore how direct social control from children-adult or school age-may matter for parents' health behaviors. The receipt of direct social control from children is theoretically most likely for parents of adult children (Umberson, 1992). Previous research has demonstrated that direct social control efforts from social networks that include adult children promote the healthy behavior of adults in later life; however, this work has not isolated adult chil- dren from other network members and thus cannot determine the specific processes that characterize children's direct social control efforts (Laroche & Snetselaar, 2011; Tucker et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.