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This study examines gender differences in the social interactions of elementary school students during their lunchtime period. This pre-adolescent culture initiates gender role behaviors that reflect how future views on gender will grow. The role of social interaction between peers relates to the food choices made in the lunchroom. The data for this study was collected through observations that took place over the course of two months in an urban public elementary school in southeastern Massachusetts. Observations were collected to closely examine how students in elementary grades are intermixing by age and gender in an informal, school-based setting. The observational data shows that gender roles and norms are controlled through speaking interactions, food consumption, and chosen seating arrangements. This research shows that at the gender mixed tables, the girls were more likely to eat less than when they were sitting at a single gender table, however, this was not the case for the boys. The findings in this study are consistent with the previous research of Eder (1995), Orenstein (1994), and Thorne (1993), yet in focusing exclusively on lunchroom activity this study more deeply analyzes social interactions in the lunchroom setting specifically as a place to examine gender norms and roles.



Thesis Comittee

Jodi Cohen (Thesis Director)

Kim MacInnis

Patricia Fanning

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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