Adult and child use of love, like, don't like and hate during family mealtimes: subjective category assessments as food preference talk

Sally Wiggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Food preference is now a ubiquitous concept in eating research, and closely associated with actual consumption, particularly in relation to children's food preferences. Research in this area is beginning to reveal the effects of parent–child interaction on eating practices though relatively little attention has been paid to the discursive and lexical processes involved. Food preferences are typically associated with the terms ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ in food preference research. By contrast, adults and children typically use the terms ‘love’, ‘like’, ‘don’t like’ and ‘hate’ to construct and manage food preferences in everyday meal conversations. A corpus of 270 video- and audio-recorded English and Scottish family mealtimes, involving children aged 1–17 years, was searched and analysed for any and all occurrences of subjective category assessments (SCAs; e.g., ‘I like X’), featuring the terms ‘love’, ‘like’, ‘don’t like’ and ‘hate’. Discursive psychology was used to analyse the transcripts and recordings, and illustrated the disparity between adult and child use of SCAs and food preference talk. Within the data set, parents typically made claims about what their children like, and in doing so claimed epistemic primacy over their children's food preferences. Children, by contrast, typically made claims about their own ‘don’t likes’ and likes, and these were frequently countered by their parents or treated as inappropriate claims. Implications for how parents and researchers might reorient to the food preferences lexicon are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7–15
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Early online date30 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2014


  • assessment
  • children
  • discursive psychology
  • food preferences
  • liking
  • subjective experience

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