17 May Mealtime…the Most Important Family Time of the Day
We always assume that families eating together would help strengthen family ties and raise better-adjusted kids, but specific studies have been done over the years that prove our assumptions by highlighting the benefits of time spent together at the dinner table.
• Research by CASA (The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) and other organizations has shown that teens that eat frequent family dinners are less likely than other teens to smoke, drink, use illegal drugs, have sex at young ages, get into fights or be suspended from school. And these results hold true regardless of a teen’s sex, family structure or socioeconomic level.
• In a research project conducted by Dr. Blake Bowden of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Center, 527 teenagers were studied to determine what family and lifestyle characteristics were related to good mental health and adjustment. Dr. Bowden and his colleagues found that kids who ate dinner with their families at least five times per week (at home or in a fast food restaurant) were the least likely to take drugs, feel depressed or get into trouble with the law. In addition, these young people were more likely to do well in school and to have a supportive circle of friends.
• A survey conducted by the University of Chicago revealed that a majority of graduate students, when asked where they got most of their ideas about morality and religion, responded “through conversation with the family at meal times.”
• One Harvard University study links children’s literacy and school success to explanatory talk at the dinner table—for instance, discussions of presidential politics or the days’ news. Not only does that expand a child’s world but it also helps a child learn to handle differences of opinion, negotiate ways to get into a conversation, hear new vocabulary words, and predict and anticipate parents’ reactions.
• A 1996 study done by Dr. Catherine Snow, a professor of education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, revealed similar results. By following sixty-five families over an eight-year period, it was determined that dinnertime was of more value to child development than playtime, school and story time. Clearly, there is power in family fellowship.
• A study several years ago found that the most common trait of high school National Merit Scholars was that they grew up eating dinner together as a family.
• Research conducted by Dr .Stacey Tantleff-Dunn and Dr. Michael E. Dunn on students entering their freshman year of college found that eating meals together as a family corresponded to lower rates of depression, lower levels of alcohol use, lower levels of marijuana use, lower levels of cigarette use, lower levels of illicit drug use, higher self-esteem, better grades, and lower levels of suspension and detention.
There are several immediate benefits that can result from sitting down to dinner with your children. The first, and most obvious, is increased communication. Nothing fosters a sense of belonging, love and self-esteem like family communication.
Eating dinner with your children is certainly not a guarantee that your kids will be National Merit Scholars, and sail through life with no problems, but it does seem like the experts are all in agreement – it’s a fabulous start.
Thanks to Jill Kimball “Drawing Families Together One Meal at a Time”