Mothering routines, the family nexus and physical activity: Using practice theory to advance social marketing thinking

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Social marketing tends to draw on healthist conceptualisations of physical activity as a responsibility for self-risk reduction, which has been critiqued as responsibilising the complex social problem of inactivity and over-emphasising the individual pursuit of healthy lifestyles (Shove, 2010). Social marketing presents citizens as sovereign consumers, with choices to make over their leisure time (Gurrieri et al., 2012), and those who fail to meet established guidelines are positioned as deficient and as suffering deficiencies (Brace Govan, 2010) which social marketing can help solve (Gordon, 2018). Drawing on the socially progressive purposes of the burgeoning critical social marketing paradigm (Gordon, 2011), and through 15 qualitative, diary-based interviews, this paper empirically explores physical activity amongst lower socio-economic status mothers from a practice theory perspective, which is beginning to gain traction as an approach to public health (Maller, 2015; Blue et al., 2016). Mothers are reimagined as navigating a complex nexus of mothering practices, routines and collective conventions, and findings illuminate the limitations of understanding physical activity participation as lifestyle choice. Rather, mothers engage in physical activity in ways that emerge from the synchronisation of an array of different social practices and social discourses relating to mothering, but also childhood practices, fathering, and institutional practices, routines and rhythms beyond mothers' command. In challenging the neoliberal project, this study reimagines the social marketing of physical activity in terms shaping socio-cultural formations which constrain physical activity, and challenges social marketers to take a rights-based approach rather than one based on individual deficiencies (Walker, 2015).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Sociological Association
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 Apr 2020

Structured keywords

  • MGMT Marketing and Consumption

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