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Finishing the family meal : the interactional organisation of satiety

Laurier, Eric and Wiggins, Sally (2011) Finishing the family meal : the interactional organisation of satiety. Appetite, 56 (1). pp. 53-64. ISSN 0195-6663

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Abstract

This paper provides an extended review of psychological, sociological and interactional research on mealtimes and satiety (fullness), arguing for a focus on how fullness and finishing a meal is interactionally achieved. Drawing on three specimen data fragments from contrasting family settings, routinely used resources for pursuing completion and expressing satiety are described. We show how checks on completion are tailored to children according to their age, the intimate knowledge family members have of one another and attuned to contingencies, such as, whether there is a further course to be offered. Equally, that in teaching children how to eat together with others, the family also transmits and transforms all manner of other eating practices such as how to comply, or not, with requests to finish. A central aim of the article is to complement the many studies of satiety that have explained its physiological aspects by providing the familial logics that are expressed in bringing the meal to a close. We offer a suggestive analysis, based on conversation analytic principles, to illustrate our argument and to provide a starting point for further work in this field. Where bodies of work have previously used mealtimes as a convenient setting for accessing other social practices, this article turns its focus back toward the tasks of dining together.