Department of Management

Perspectives on sugar consumption expressed on social media by French-speaking and Danish-speaking parents

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Introduction
Meanings and practices attributed to sugar emerged as important barriers to healthy eating in an earlier study with French and Danish parents. Considering the impact of excessive sugar intake on human health and childhood obesity, this study focuses on gaining further understanding of connotations, perceptions and attitudes related to sugar among parents.

Methods
A thematic analysis of sugar-related posts and comments on blogs and Facebook pages was performed, and in-depth interviews with experts (one in each country) were conducted. Data were set in a Social Judgment Theory analytical framework.

Results
Sugar consumption appears as a two-sided experience, being at times dangerous, sinful and addictive, but also comforting and delightful. This “sugar dilemma” unfolded aspects between asceticism and hedonism, state governance and personal responsibility. Three main behavioral strategies on how parents deal with these ambivalences emerged: i) restriction, ii) moderation, and iii) liberation. Restriction was more noticeable in France, whereas liberation was more pronounced in Denmark. In both countries, the ones who defended the respective opposite positions (restriction or liberation) were targets of judgmental moral tones. The three behavioral strategies corresponded to the main attitudes demonstrated in reaction to anti-sugar messages, which align to the Social Judgment Theory constructs: acceptance, non-commitment and rejection.

Conclusions
Findings shed light on dietary, behavioral and social challenges faced by parents and highlight the importance of a diversified approach to tackle sugar consumption among families - an approach that considers individuals' attitudes, social context and value systems. Furthermore, online sugar-related content yields valuable information on the social construction and morality of health and nutrition discourses and the misleading, confusing and overwhelming nature of social media content. Parents’ discussions are an example of the general dilemmas between (gendered) parenting expectations, individual freedom and morality of food choices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113636
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Volume270
Number of pages9
ISSN0277-9536
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Research areas

  • Sugar, Parents, Food choices, Social media, Family health, Netnography, Dietary cacophony, Social judgment theory

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