Mum’s Diet and children’s voice in health education

LCJ 21 front cover

Denise Atkins

LCJ: Special Issue: 2017 30th ACHPER International Conference, 21, pp. 168-179

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Atkins, D. (2017). Mum’s Diet and children’s voice in health education. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: 2017 30th ACHPER International Conference], 21, 168-179. DOI:



This paper focuses on how children develop particular understandings about health and about their bodies through formal and informal learning processes. It will discuss findings from a two year long ethnographic study undertaken in Aotearoa New Zealand that explored how primary school aged children reproduce health messages. The study drew on Shilling’s (2008) notion of corporeal perfection, referring to the ‘ideal body’, an image that is often cultivated as acceptable with children. This paper discusses opportunities that teachers have to reinforce messages about health during and following a health intervention called Healthy Homework. Findings from this doctoral research illustrate ways in which health programmes and resources overtly and inadvertently limit understandings of what it is to be healthy and what constitutes a healthy body. The reading book Mum’s Diet (Cowley, 1987) provides a framework for discussion on children’s understanding of health and healthy bodies. The findings illustrated that understandings of health can often be re-contextualised, resulting in children’s voice being a reproduction of the cultural norms afforded them through their school and home environments.


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