Children, Food and Identity in Everyday Life (Studies in Childhood and Youth)

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However, children's agency is not unconstrained, but inflected with power.

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In contrast to liberal models, the point of departure in this article is a social model of agency that recognises the social embeddedness of agency and children's differences Valentine Power and agency have also been important themes in research on children and food. Power and children's agency is of particular interest in relation to allergies, since an allergy entails additional restrictions for children. Young people's lived experiences of food allergies are shaped within wider discourses around childhood, such as childhood vulnerability, age and responsibility James and James and societal consumption and eating ideals.

Restricted food options may therefore have consequences for the young person's understanding of the self.

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Of importance are also local negotiations and agreements about how to manage food allergy risk in different social arenas Rous and Hunt These norms may be reflected in institutional arrangements and cultural practices of adults and children. Young people with food allergies are therefore both positioned by others and position others within interaction processes in different contexts and peer groups where the tensions between conformity and individuality have to be managed Valentine The aim of this article is to explore young people's management of food allergy risks in relation to food, eating and place.

Specifically, it focuses on young people's accounts of agency and negotiations in the avoidance of health risk as well as social risk: how they avoid risky food, cope with allergic reactions and manage social risk related to interaction with others, together with their expectations of the future. The participants were informed about the study by the staff and the researcher then contacted those who had expressed an interest in participating. The study was approved by the Ethics Committee at Karolinska Institute and informed consent was obtained from the participants and their parents.

She emphasised that the information about their experiences would be very valuable and encouraged them to speak about things they considered important. To elict their own reflections, the participants were first asked about what came to mind upon hearing the term food allergy. Their accounts differed in terms of detail, but all interviewees were willing to share their experiences and some of them took the opportunity to express issues they considered important.

Data were analysed thematically Braun and Clarke , focusing on the young people's perspective on the meanings of food allergy risks. Two major themes were identified: the management of, on the one hand, the health risk and on the other hand, the social risk across different settings. The analysis focused on how these themes were linked to each other, as well as their implications for the young people's agency.

The management of health risks in different social contexts and places involves dependence on others.

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Despite constant vigilance, the participants described the impossible task that total risk avoidance presents, as the measures that others take to ensure that food is safe never appear fully trustworthy. Public places appear particularly precarious, while the home is depicted as a safe zone where family members adjust to the young person's needs. Parents ensure that the young person with an allergy can eat the same food as the rest of the family. The home is often free from the foods they are allergic to, as Adrian says: At Mum's we never ever have anything with nuts in it, well traces of nuts can, my little brother can have sweets sometimes, but never anything with nuts in it.

At Dad's it's probably a bit more, well, with nuts, we have biscuits with nougat in and that but I'd rather they weren't there when I'm at home, but I feel, when Mum and Dad cook I feel almost completely safe. There are few things … well, especially with mum, I knew she'd never like risk anything.

Children, Food and Identity in Everyday Life

In the above account Adrian indicates that, even if the home is regarded as a safe zone one has to be alert there too; a challenge that increases in public places. Here, Alva describes the experience of the constant threat of an allergic reaction: Alva Imagine if I eat something, just imagine, it could happen at any time, it's really frightening. Alva If those who prepare food in different places don't know what they're doing, then it's really risky and I wonder whether I should eat that sandwich or not.

Have they used the right sort of butter? If not, I'll be really, really ill. Even though not all the participants in this study who are allergic to peanuts know if they react to airborne allergens, knowing that it is possible to have an allergic reaction just from breathing in small particles of peanuts influences their experiences of the risk involved.

Several of them mention that they are worried when they travel by aeroplane. Other public places, such as buses or institutions like school, may also be regarded as unsafe. Like several of the other participants she feels comfortable asking her friends to be careful when she is around, but in other situations, the participants say they may just leave the place. Ultimately, the participants say they feel responsible for making their own assessment of different places and the safety of the food served.

Molly says that when she was younger and allergic to egg she was served lasagne at school.


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Here, Joanna talks about her summer holiday and how her mum is involved in buying a pizza for her: We usually do it this way that I don't go with mum when she's going to order. Mum and my little sister go together while I stay in the caravan because, well, if I come with them I can become really unsure, it's better if I just say to mum that I trust you, I trust you to sort this out together with the kitchen staff. The shared aspect of managing a food allergy risk emerges as an issue of who can be trusted and which places can be regarded as safe and unsafe.

Being able to judge this and to control the dangers by, for example, extra vigilance during the school lunch and leaving an unsafe place is part of young people's allergy management and competence. Risks are not always easy to assess, however. As we have seen, allergy management has to be carried out in different social contexts and it impacts on young people's everyday life and how they anticipate their future. Reflecting on her future life with allergy, Isabella says she can never be totally safe, but only increasingly better at managing her allergy: Isabella When I was little it was mum and dad who knew everything, without them I was helpless, but now I feel that I can look after myself, I know that I can't eat certain things and I know what I can and cannot eat, so I hope, yes, I think it will be fairly easy, I mean when I move into a home of my own, I'll have everything milk free in any case and that feels really good.

Isabella But of course it will affect my life, I'll never really be able to go to real parties, like I'll never be able to drink alcohol or, well, do a lot of things, because then you can lose control and eat whatever and become really ill, not know what you're doing, that'll never happen in my life, because I can't, it mustn't happen and it makes me think, how will it be if I want to go partying with my friends?

While allergy management at home may become easier, managing Isabella's allergy in some social contexts and situations may become more problematic. She must never lose control, because then her life may be endangered, illustrating the powerful restrictions to her life her allergy dictate and the responsibility she needs to assume. Imagine if I'm lying like unconscious and they have to take the key out of my pocket and open the locker and everything, that like takes time, maybe they don't know how. But I don't think it'll be like that, it's just that it can happen.

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Joel's account illustrates that the feeling of loss of control, being very vulnerable and relying on others to know what to do is particularly pertinent if there is an allergic reaction. At the same time he also gives examples of how he tries to regain control and, like some of the other participants in this study, he has instructed his friends what to do if he has an allergic reaction. Some of the participants have had severe reactions and describes it as a frightening experience: People have to help me and like phone somebody or stick the syringe into my leg, but I don't understand what's happened until afterwards, while it's going on it's just a matter of surviving or something, of breathing.


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  4. Here, the loss of control, the dependence on others and the experience that one's life is threatened emerge as aspects of the experience of a severe allergic reaction. Even if they have never experienced a severe reaction, the knowledge that it might happen seems to permeate the lives of the participants in this study. Here, Joanna talks about her fear of having a severe reaction: I'm like terrified because it's bound to happen sometime. I don't think I can live my life without ever getting a allergic reaction, because I'm bound to get one, that's what I believe.

    Like, I'm almost certain that I will and it feels like every day could be that day in some way.

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    The management of risk associated with food allergy is presented as trying to control the uncontrollable and the existential aspects of allergy management comes to the fore. Allergy risk emerges as being highly unpredictable, as a risk that may occur at any time. At the same time young people take measures to control the risk, such as informing their friends what to do in case of an allergic reaction.

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    Nearly a quarter of LGBT students report being physically attacked in school. These acts of bullying were not only student-to-student incidents: In a national survey , nearly a third of transgender respondents reported being verbally harassed by teachers or staff in a K school, 5 percent reported being physically assaulted by these adults, and 3 percent reported being sexually assaulted.

    Some of the health implications of the harassment these students face are seen at the time of the incidents. Bullying can directly and immediately result in physical injury and significant emotional distress. But the health effects of bullying also extend well beyond the time of the harassment. LGBT youth who are victims of bullying are at increased risk for depression and anxiety , and studies show other negative health outcomes as well. In a national survey of transgender adults, the long-term consequences of severe bullying were among the most alarming findings of the study.

    Nearly one-sixth of respondents who were out as transgender faced bullying so severe that it led them to leave school in grades K or in higher-education settings. Of these individuals, nearly half reported experiencing homelessness, and the HIV infection rate in this group was eight times higher than the rate found in the general population.

    Worse still, more than half of transgender people who faced harassment or violence in schools because of their gender identity reported attempting suicide, and this rate increased for individuals who faced physical or sexual violence from teachers or staff. With the bleak outcomes of bullying brought to light, it is clear that policymakers must act to protect LGBT youth in their schools, and a bill introduced this year would do just that.

    The Student Non-Discrimination Act would provide protections against bullying and harassment for LGBT youth, as well as meaningful consequences—including loss of federal funding and a legal cause of action for victims—for discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, many LGBT youth not only face danger in the classroom, but also lack support in their own homes.

    Half of LGBT youth experience a negative reaction from their parents when they come out of the closet and disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. Young people who come out to their parents are vulnerable to rejection and are at an increased risk of victimization with significant long-term health consequences.

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    LGBT young adults who lack family support are more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide, nearly six times more likely to report high levels of depression, and are more than three times more likely to use illegal substances or engage in unprotected sex. Family acceptance and rejection is a two-way street.