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Tolerance of food intolerance: a socio-cultural study of parents who have investigated food intolerance with their families

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posted on 17.02.2017, 03:18 by Golemac, Dianne
This study focuses on parent perceptions about food, behaviour and the learning of their young children in a sociocultural context. It aims to provide further information to educators, parents, teachers and care providers of children, particularly in the pre-school years, about families who have investigated food intolerance and its possible role in early childhood learning. The four participants of this study are members of the Food Intolerance Network (FIN), an online discussion forum for people investigating food intolerance issues. Participants self selected to be a part of this study. They completed a journal to record their experiences with food intolerance and then participated in a follow up interview to further expand on the arising issues. All the participants are female and are mothers of either one or two children. The families all reside in Melbourne. In two of the four families, both the parents and children investigated food intolerance. The children were the main focus of the investigation in one family and the mother investigated food intolerance for herself in the remaining family. When the participants discovered food intolerance in their families through an elimination diet, they reported changes in a range of behaviours, including sleep, aggression and anxiety. The parents from this study believe diet can improve their child’s ability to concentrate and learn. In addition to this, positive relationship changes were recognised among family members and friendship groups. Some of the parents felt that their children were less likely to over react to situations and some felt that they had discovered their “real child” through discovering the foods their child could not tolerate. Happiness was how the participants described the feelings of themselves and their children, though there was a sense of frustration as they told stories about the teachers, child care workers and extended family members who they found unaccommodating. Participants found the FIN particularly supportive while they made changes to their family diet, as it provided them with a group of people who had an understanding of food intolerance issues. Overall participants reported positive experiences through learning and managing food intolerance issues relevant to their family. Health, behaviour and learning were some of the benefits perceived by parents when family members ate foods which they were able to tolerate. They found that their interpersonal relationships as a family were better and they were able to find the support they needed through the FIN. The hardships identified by the participants related to the difficulty communicating food intolerance issues with their extended families and they felt misunderstood by those responsible for the care and education of their children at schools and child care facilities.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Leanne Hallowell

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Master of Education

Degree Type



Faculty of Education