Loughborough University
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Children's expressions of pain and bodily sensation in family mealtimes

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posted on 2013-06-20, 07:37 authored by Laura JenkinsLaura Jenkins
This study applied conversation analysis for the first time to episodes in which children express pain and bodily sensations in the everyday setting of family mealtimes. It focuses on the components of children s expressions, the character of parents responses, and how the sequence is resolved. Three families who had a child with a long term health condition were recruited through voluntary support groups and agreed to film 15-17 mealtimes. In total 47 mealtimes were recorded totalling 23 hours of data. Each family had two children aged 15 months to nine years and included a heterosexual married couple. This data was supplemented by archives in the Discourse and Rhetoric Group: a further nine hours of mealtime recordings by two families each with two children aged three to seven years. The analysis describes four key components of children s expressions of bodily sensation and pain: lexical formulations; prosodic features; pain cries and embodied actions, revealing the way in which they can be built together to display different aspects of the experience. The results highlight the nature of these expressions as initiating actions designed in and for interaction. An examination of the sequence that follows demonstrates the negotiated character of pain. Descriptions of the nature of the child s pain and its authenticity are produced, amended, resisted or accepted in the turns that follow. During these sequences participant orientations reveal the pervasive relevance of eating related tasks that characterises mealtime interaction. The discussion concludes by describing the unique insights into the negotiated rather than private nature of a child s pain demonstrated by this study, and the way in which pain can be understood as produced and dealt with as part of the colourful tapestry of everyday family life in which everyday tasks are achieved, knowledge and authority is claimed and participants are positioned in terms of their relationship to one another.





© Laura Jenkins

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

EThOS Persistent ID



  • en

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral