Health Sciences Program Student Theses, Dissertations and Capstones

Mealtime insights: A Photovoice project with African American mothers and their young children

Paula Ann Rabaey, Nova Southeastern University


Mothering is a complex and multifaceted occupation that encompasses the nurturing work that women engage in. It addition, it has been established that ethnicity, class, and gender have effects on motherhood that need to be taken into account when looking at the occupations of motherhood across cultures. One important task that occurs within a mothers’ daily routine is that of making meals for their children. This dissertation sought to gain a rich, in-depth description of the phenomenon of the mealtime experience for African American mothers of low socioeconomic status and young children living in an inner-city environment in the Midwest. This study used a phenomenological approach with modified photovoice and photo-elicitation interviews to capture the essence of mealtime for African American mothers raising young children. Six mothers were recruited for the study and consented to two in-depth interviews. Individual interviewing occurred along with a second photo elicitation interview with the participant’s photographs. Phenomenological analyses were used for textual data; the photographs were analyzed separately and then together with the textual data from the photo-elicitation interviews. Results of this study indicated the intricate complexities of the occupation of mealtime and mothering with African American mothers. From the photo-elicitation interviews, five themes and three subthemes emerged: (a) Sometimes it doesn’t happen smoothly, (b) We’re all together, (c) We sit there and we talk, (d) It’s an accomplishment, and (e) We’re in the kitchen together. Three subthemes also emerged: (a) Putting in the effort, (b) It was kind of a teaching moment, and (c) It’s like déjà vu. This research (a) promotes a greater understanding of mothers’ perceptions around mealtime with their young children, especially those mothers who have varied cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds; and (b) suggests a need for increased family-centered and culturally aware training. This study demonstrates how photo techniques can enhance the depth of phenomenological analysis to explicate meaning around mealtime occupations with a diverse group of mothers.