Ward, Pamela Rose (2012) Exploring the role of discourse in the emerging identities of children enrolled in an obesity treatment program. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
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While there has been an abundance of research conducted in the area of obesity, the vast majority of studies have investigated the implications of obesity from a positivist perspective with attention to physical ramifications or potential burden to the healthcare system. Studies that examine the embodied experiences of children who are defined as obese are practically non-existent. Utilizing a multi-method qualitative approach informed by post-structural and feminist theory, this study was designed to examine how children enrolled in an obesity treatment program with a self-esteem focus both utilize and resist dominant discourses related to the body and health, and how they negotiate alternative discourses as introduced through the program. It provides a much-needed examination of how so-called 'obese' children navigate the dominant health and obesity discourses while trying to forge their sense of selves. Through interviews, focus groups and participant observations, I demonstrate how children in this study drew regularly upon the dominant messages in relation to weight and health to situate themselves on the periphery of social space, hence becoming the 'fat other'. Utilizing Foucauldian theory, I also demonstrate how governmental notions of risk and responsibility central to the obesity discourse serve to position 'obese' children as the 'ultimate at-risk' children, placing them in a position of constant scrutiny and surveillance. While I show that within the present healthist environment, these children are provided limited discursive resources to support a so-called 'healthy' identity, I also expose the fluid and contingent nature of identity formation. I illustrate how the children exercised agency through various resistive mechanisms upon entering the program, while also demonstrating this agency in drawing upon the alternative discourses as presented in the program in an effort to challenge the 'fat identity'. This research contributes to a growing body of critical obesity research that moves the concept obesity beyond a medical and social 'problem' to consider how such a concept is discursively constituted within the broader social, cultural, and political facets of contemporary society.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))|
|Additional Information:||Includes bibliographical references (leaves 269-312).|
|Department(s):||Medicine, Faculty of|
|Library of Congress Subject Heading:||Obesity in children--Treatment; Overweight children--Medical care; Overweight children--Psychology; Identity (Psychology) in children;|
|Medical Subject Heading:||Pediatric Obesity--therapy; Pediatric Obesity--psychology; Social Identification;|
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