Why is This a Battle Every Night?: Negotiating Food and Eating in American Dinnertime Interaction


Amy Paugh
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
James Madison University
MSC 7501, Sheldon Hall
Harrisonburg, VA 22807

Carolina Izquierdo
CELF: A UCLA Sloan Center
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Los Angeles
341 Haines Hall, Box 951553
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1553


This article analyzes interactions about food and eating among dual-earner middle-class families in Los Angeles, California. It synthesizes approaches from linguistic and medical anthropology to investigate how health is defined and negotiated both in interviews and in everyday communication. In particular, it explores dinnertime episodes from five families to illustrate how interactional bargaining contributes to struggles between parents and children over health-related practices, values, and morality. It compares naturally occurring videotaped interactions to parents' evaluations of their families' health elicited in interviews. The analysis of food interactions reveals much about the discursive construction of health and family life, including frequent conflicts between parents and children over eating practices. [health, food and eating, dinnertime interaction, children, working families, United States]