Are Family Meals as Good for Youth as We Think They Are? A Review of the Literature on Family Meals as They Pertain to Adolescent Risk Prevention
- 2k Downloads
Regular family meals have been shown to reduce adolescents’ engagement in various risk behaviors. In this article, we comprehensively examine the literature to review the association between family meals and eight adolescent risk outcomes: alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs; aggressive and/or violent behaviors; poor school performance; sexual behavior; mental health problems; and disordered eating patterns. The majority of the studies reviewed found associations in the relationship between family meals and adolescents’ risk profiles. More specifically, studies reporting significant associations found that adolescents who frequently ate meals with their family and/or parents were less likely to engage in risk behaviors when compared to peers who never or rarely ate meals with their families. Additionally, the influence of family meal frequency on youth risk outcomes appears to be dependent on gender, with family meals being a protective factor for females and males differently, depending on the outcome examined. However, the studies available about family meals and adolescent risk only examined the effect of family meal frequency, and not other components of family meals that contribute to the protective effect, and, thus, hinder the understanding of the mechanisms unique to family meals’ protective characteristics. Regardless of these limitations, the studies examined indicate that family meals may be protective and, therefore, have practical implications for parents, clinicians, and organizations looking to reduce adolescent risk behaviors. However, further examination is needed to better understand the mechanisms that contribute to the protective effect afforded by family meal frequency on adolescents.
KeywordsFamily meals Adolescent risk Literature review
- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
- Griffin, K. W., Botvin, G. J., Scheier, L. M., Diaz, T., & Miller, N. L. (2000). Parenting practices as predictors of substance use, delinquency, and aggression among urban minority youth: Moderating effects of family structure and gender. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 14, 174–184.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hofferth, S. L. (1999). Changes in American Children’s Time, 1981–1997. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Center Survey.Google Scholar
- Moos, R. H., & Moos, B. S. (1986). The family environment scale: The manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
- Musick, K., & Meier, A. (2012). Assessing causality and persistence in associations between family dinners and adolescent well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 476–493.Google Scholar
- Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Story, M., & Sherwood, N. E. (2009). Five-year longitudinal predictive factors for disordered eating in a population-based sample of overweight adolescents: Implications for prevention and treatment. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 42, 664–672.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of the American community. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- The Family Dinner Project. (2012). Homepage. Retrieved January 14, 2013 from http://new.thefamilydinnerproject.org/.
- The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). (2012). The importance of family dinners VIII. New York, NY: Columbia University.Google Scholar
- The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). (2013). Family Day. Retrieved on January 14, 2012 from http://casafamilyday.org/familyday/.