A practice theory view of the temporality of mothering routines to inform physical activity social marketing programmes

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Social marketing tends to assume the sovereign consumer, with choices to make over their leisure time (Gurrieri et al., 2012). Those who fail to meet established healthy behaviour guidelines are positioned as having deficiencies (Brace Govan, 2010), which social marketing can help solve (Gordon, 2018). Drawing on the socially progressive purposes of the Critical Social Marketing paradigm (Gordon, 2011), this study uses practice theory as a basis for challenging the neoliberal position of traditional social marketing. It presents an alternative perspective of ‘routine’ which decentres individuals and situates practices as the unit of enquiry. 15 qualitative interviews with mothers from deprived areas of Bristol were conducted in Autumn 2019. Interviews included depth discussions of participant diaries (kept via Instagram, whatsapp, paper notes or email). Discussion focused on the mundane details of participants’ family routines.

Data were analysed using Southerton’s (2012) conceptualisation of routines as constituting dispositions, procedures and sequences that involve the enactment of practices which are both shaped by, and shape, temporal configurations. As such, mothering is reimagined as a complex nexus of practices involving institutionally and socially derived routines that are often quite fixed and collectively performed. This view can help explain how mothering practices are often infused with intense emotions and purpose, meaning physically active practices can ‘lose’ when competing for a mothers’ time. Intensity increases when some routines demand multiple forms of synchronisation, as practices are enacted in collectively established and/or temporally configured ways, e.g. at specific times of day or the week and in particular orders. An example is ‘child bed time’, which mothers enact after a full day of caring or paid work, and which happens in relation to a number of other practices and routines such as childrens’ days at school, working days, pickups, cooking, eating, bathing and tidying or cleaning. Bed time routines might have a different intensity at the weekend.

Discussion illuminates the limitations of understanding physical activity participation as lifestyle choice, or inactivity as the result of ‘deficient’ habits to be changed at an individualist level. Social marketing must take into account and challenge the socio-cultural formulation of everyday lives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUniversity of Bath Qualitative Research Symposium
Publication statusUnpublished - 29 Jan 2020

Structured keywords

  • MGMT theme Sustainable Production and Consumption

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