University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Gender and food in later life: shifting roles and relationships

Davidson, K, Arber, S and Marshall, H (2008) Gender and food in later life: shifting roles and relationships In: Food for the Ageing Population. Food Science, Technology and Nutrition, 165 (6). Woodhead Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, pp. 110-127. ISBN 1845691938

[img] Text
Arber 2008 Gender and Food inlater Life WoodhouseCh1 4 davidson final 14 05 08.pdf
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

Download (96kB)
Text (licence)

Download (33kB)


Whilst most academic literature on food is written from a nutritional perspective, over the last three decades there has been increasing sociological interest in the meaning of food from a social interactionist approach. This interest was stimulated by the burgeoning feminist examination of the gendered domestic division of labour within households (for example Arber, 1993; Oakley, 1975). Cooking and its allied tasks: menu choice, shopping, preparation and clearing up afterwards, continues to be carried out mainly by women (DeVault, 1991; Sullivan, 1997). Since the 1980s, there have been changes in the gender dynamics of responsibility for meal preparation associated with age, class, educational level and presence of children within relationship units (Kemmer, 2000; Warde and Hetherington, 1994). The negotiation of food habits and behaviours of heterosexual couples entering into a relationship, whether cohabitation or marriage, has been investigated by Kemmer et al (1998) and Lake (2006), but less attention has been paid how food is linked to older people’s negotiations and adjustments to life events such as widowhood and new partnership formation. This chapter sheds light on the enduring importance of food as ‘social glue’ in old age, and how gendered food practices play a pivotal role in the maintenance of roles and identities in later life. Food practices expose social relations as they reflect, and are used to perform, social roles and identities. Life events such as widowhood in later life impact on the social roles of older people which in turn are reflected in food related behaviour such as the responsibility for food and food preparation. Continuities and discontinuities are experienced differently by older men and women, and the strategies employed to deal with them reflect perceptions of traditional cultural and gender roles. The chapter firstly examines sociological literature around food and the gendered division of labour in the kitchen, and discusses the sparse literature on ageing, social networks and food behaviours. Secondly, it discusses the methodology of our qualitative research project. Thirdly, it analyses our data to examine traditional notions of age related feminine and masculine identities and their impact on food related behaviours despite, and as a result of late life-course transitions.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Davidson, K
Arber, S
Marshall, H
Editors :
M Raats,
Groot, L
Staveren, WV
Date : December 2008
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 11 Jul 2013 13:23
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 15:05

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800