Journal of Public Health and Nutrition

Review Article - Journal of Public Health and Nutrition (2018) Volume 1, Issue 2

A critical assessment of the impact of conformity on collectivist families meal social interaction behaviour in Sierra Leone

Background: Conformity is sanctioned at Sierra Leonean families’ mealtimes not only to streamline behaviour, but also to overhaul the character of individuals in order to increase their acceptance in society. These norms are reinforced to promote appropriate ethical standards at mealtimes. Consequently, moral family education at mealtimes is fundamental for knowledge transfer and for instilling appropriate discipline in children. The importance of this is that it plays a critical part in refining the thoughts of individuals within a family at mealtimes, which enables them to understand their roles and positions in the family and their relationship with others within and without the family, especially visitors and extended family members. Thus, building relationship with other members of the family is a mandatory requirement at mealtimes, as it serves to foster continuity and the long-term survival of the family. Tacitly, family cohesion is central to how families relate with each other at mealtimes and acts as a critical determinant of the degree of closeness in a family, which is vital for the families’ public image. Methods: The researcher used one-to-one semi-structured qualitative interviews to investigate families’ views and experiences of their mealtimes’ behaviours. In this research, due to the fact that the selected samples of families were unknown, the researcher used snowballing; convenience; and experiential sampling in recruiting respondents, including males and females from different cultural, ethnic, religious and professional backgrounds, across the different regions of Sierra Leone. The interviews were guided by a topic, and this procedure was followed until no new themes emerged. The interviews were recorded using an audio recorder, which were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic approach. Results: A total of 20 families (comprising 20 husbands and 20 wives) with a sample size of 40 participants were used in this study. The paper highlights the influence of conformity on the behaviour of Christian and Muslim families (husband and wife) at mealtimes and draw attention to its significance as influencer of collectivism, particularly in relation to its impact on the social interaction between similar and dissimilar gender groups. The author critically assessed the extent of the influence of conformity on families’ meal social interaction behaviour and presented a comparative analytical summary of how gender affects the meal behaviours of different gender and religious groups. Conclusion: The aspect of conformity, as emphasised by a majority of the respondents, is used to not only reinforce family norms, beliefs and values, but to imbibe discipline among family members at the dinner table.

Author(s): Sheku Kakay

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