‘Am I that bad?’: Middle-class moralism and weight stigma towards parents of children with higher weight

Iben Charlotte Aamann, Mikala Erlik*

*Corresponding author

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


The purpose of this article is to explore how parents of children with higher weights are represented in policy documents constituted by health authorities in the Danish welfare state. It focuses on how discourses of moral judgements might play a role in child rearing, by framing child obesity as a parental problem in health professionals' practical guidelines. The article is based on a discursive analysis of cases from three guidelines published by two respected Danish health bodies. The cases describe how health professionals should perceive families with obesity when providing interventions. Using sociocultural class theories, we find that the cases in the guidelines display a middle-class hegemony, which implies a preoccupation with moral judgements. Combining this with a post-structuralist concept of discursive subject positions and representations, we reveal how mothers of obese children are subject to these judgements, either as passive and irresponsible lower-class citizens or as morally worthwhile and responsible middle-class citizens because of shame and fear of being judged. We conclude that the ways obesity is discursively constructed by the Danish health authorities is concerning because they build on outdated and stigmatising views on obesity. The moral implications of this might increase inequity in access to health by distributing stigma and thereby legitimating welfare retrenchment with reference to economic necessities and irresponsibility among the less privileged groups.
TidsskriftChildren & Society
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)1737-1753
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2023

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