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Background: Implicit in much of the literature on childhood obesity is a hierarchical, unidirectional understanding of intergenerational relations, which highlights parents’ responsibility for children’s food and eating practices.

Aim: Drawing upon alternative understandings from the social science literature, which offer more nuanced insights into family life and generational relations, this paper explores, through parents’ narratives, the construction of family food environments and family eating practices in families with a child with obesity.

Subjects and methods: Data were generated through individual, semi-structured interviews with parents of children attending a community-based obesity intervention programme in an inner city area in the North of England. Forty-nine interviews were conducted with 25 parental adults from 19 families.

Results: Parent’s own concerns over their body weight and size and children’s social experiences in a fat-averse society can both work to flatten the traditional familial, adult–child hierarchy. Both parents and children actively contribute to the construction of family life and family eating practices. Conclusion: Findings may pose challenges for contemporary health promotion and policy agendas which presume that parents have the ability and resources to control and direct children’s eating in a unidirectional and authoritative manner.

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Journal Article

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