Surveys have shown that a fifth of British children do not eat a meal more than once a week with another member of their household, and many homes do not have a dining table. Needless to say, this pattern is concentrated in the lower reaches of society, where so elementary but fundamental a means of socialization is now unknown.(1)
Set a goal to have regular family meals at least three times per week, if possible. Most research notes some type of improvement in child outcomes when a family participated in at least three family meals together each week. Of course this is not possible for all families. If not, try to substitute family dinners with shared breakfasts, evening snacks or any similar activity that will allow your family to gather more regularly.(4)
Other studies relate a host of benefits to regular family mealtimes. One study found, “Participation in dinner table conversations offers children opportunities to acquire vocabulary, practice producing and understanding stories and explanations, acquire general knowledge, and learn how to talk in culturally appropriate ways.”(6) An article by Anne Fishel, co-founder of “The Family Dinner Project,” and professor at Harvard Medical School” discusses things such as participation in mealtime as a predictor of high achievement scores on high school tests. It has a greater relationship than time spent in school or doing homework! Adolescents who eat with their families five to seven times a week are twice as likely to get As in school than those who eat with their families twice a week. She discusses several nutritional benefits and the negative effects of eating in front of the TV. High-risk teenage behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence, school problems, sexual activity, and eating disorders are lower among those adolescents regularly eating with their families. Dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts and recovering from cyberbulling are also subjects studied and reporting positive correlations with regular family mealtimes.Likewise, positive moods and views of the future in youth are apparently influenced by socialization which occurs at mealtime. (7) And on the studies go.
If you have fond memories of great mealtimes or thoughts about this blog please share your stories with us in the comment section.
6. Abstract of Catherine E. Snow and Diane E. Beals, “Mealtime Talk that Supports Literacy Development,” Direction for Child and Adolescent Development 2006, no. 111 (Spring 2006): 51-6.
7. Anne Fishel, “The Most Important Thing You can Do with Your Kids? Eat Dinner with Them,” The Washington Post, 12 January 2015, available online at:
A nineteen-page September 2007 report by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), entitled “The Importance of Family Dinners IV,” discusses many of these same issues related to abuse of various substances.
This article has many cyber links to studies which it mentions or reviews.