Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Feeding grandchildren: competing priorities and blurred relational boundaries

Webster, Michelle; Cappellini, Benedetta; Harman, Vicki


Michelle Webster

Vicki Harman


With grandparents providing increasing amounts of childcare, through the lens of food, this paper explores how the provision of regular childcare may be blurring the boundaries of the grandmother role. Drawing on semi-structured, photo elicitation interviews with 23 white British grandparents who regularly look after their grandchildren aged 11 years and under, we demonstrate that there were sometimes competing priorities and tensions between grandmothers and their grandchildren’s parents when it came to feeding children. While the parents’ “intensive feeding” preferences seemed to be shaped by intensive parenting culture, the grandmothers prioritized using eating occasions as an arena for socialization and fostering culinary capital in their grandchildren. Furthermore, while the grandmothers described building bonds with their grandchildren through the provision of treats, there was evidence that the type of foods that were used as treats, or the frequency of their provision, sometimes led to tension with parents. Overall, the data on child feeding shows that grandmothers found their role to be in a constant state of flux, as their assumed authority varied depending on who was present. We consequently conclude that grandmothering is complex, and situationally defined, particularly for those who provide regular care for their grandchildren.


Webster, M., Cappellini, B., & Harman, V. (2023). Feeding grandchildren: competing priorities and blurred relational boundaries. Food, Culture & Society,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 21, 2023
Online Publication Date Apr 1, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date May 3, 2023
Journal Food, Culture & Society
Print ISSN 1552-8014
Electronic ISSN 1751-7443
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Public URL