Tapestry

Around the dinner table: struggles and rewards in family life

Carrah Quigley was 19 when she learned her father was a school shooter. Now, she says, her father's story has changed the way she understands violent crimes and the people who commit them. UBC sociologist Sinikka Elliott says the moral pressure placed on the family meal time might be as damaging as it is helpful.

A daughter learns of her father’s violent past; the potentially damaging pressure to have family meals

Charles Cottet, Farewell dinner in the land of the sea (1898). (Christophel Fine Art/UIG via Getty Images)
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Carrah Quigley was 19 when she learned her father was a school shooter. Back in 1955, he went on an armed rampage, planning to kill everyone in his college dorm, but turned himself in to police after killing one other man. After serving time in a psychiatric hospital, Quiqley's father went on to lead a life full of love and compassion. Now, she says, her father's story has changed the way she understands violent crimes and the people who commit them.

UBC sociologist Sinikka Elliott  was curious about the current wisdom that says if you care about your family's well-being, take the time to cook them home-made meals. Elliott and her colleagues spent five years investigating what it really takes to put food on the table, working with more than 150 American families across different classes and racial backgrounds. They found that the moral pressure placed on mealtime might be as damaging as it is helpful.