Evaluating Saudi Arabian Fathers as Key Socialisation Agents in Children's Healthy Eating and The Implications for Healthy Food Marketing Policy Development

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Ammar Abdullah Ali Alawadh
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Saudi Digital Library
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This doctoral thesis aims to explore the parental role in children’s food socialisation. Despite the current consumer socialisation literature demonstrating that parents are the most influential socialisation agent for children, little is known about the role fathers play in shaping and forming their children’s (un)healthy habits early in life. To address this gap, this doctoral thesis explores the role of the male heads of the family – fathers – as key agents of socialisation who influence their children’s (un)healthy food consumption in the culturally distinctive nation of Saudi Arabia. To seek understanding of how fathers shape food socialisation process for their children, I collected qualitative and interpretative data from 32 fathers from Saudi Arabia adopting combination data collection tools, namely, food choice diaries, in-depth interviews, and accompanied shopping trips. The findings from the primary research indicated that fathers transfer certain skills, knowledge, and attitudes to their sons regarding food choices in food stores through overt communications and observations, and thus they have a great influence on the development of their sons’ consumer skills, knowledge, and attitudes. Moreover, the findings suggested six factors shaping fathers’ socialisation of their children’s food habits. While social, economic, and religious factors were the most powerful, physiological, nutritional knowledge and beliefs, as well as marketing factors were less influential. Furthermore, the findings stressed that fathers perceived their roles and responsibilities as food socialisation agents for their children, for example (1) food availability, (2) role modelling, (3) teaching children about food, (4) restricting and controlling children's unhealthy food consumption, and (4) encouraging children to consume healthy food and rewarding them for doing so. Overall, fathers encounter different and diverse challenges balancing healthy and unhealthy food choices and socialisation for their children. This doctoral thesis makes several substantial contributions to the present consumer socialisation literature. My research is the first study to adopt consumer socialisation theory in family food consumption, specifically fathers’ food choices for their children, in the context of Saudi Arabia culture. Furthermore, it contributes to understanding the phenomenon of father’s roles in food consumption practices with reference to the epidemic of childhood obesity. Moreover, it contributes to understanding father-son interaction with respect to why and how fathers teach their sons not daughters about (un)healthy foods in the context of food stores. Additionally, it contributes to understanding how different factors form or limit fathers’ efforts to socialise their children into (un)healthy food consumption. Lastly, it contributes to knowledge about how fathers’ feeding practices are shaped by responsibilities. The primary research has important implications for healthy food marketing policies. Based on the data, the implications could be classified into three categories, namely, health education campaigns, marketing campaigns, and suggestions for policymakers.
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