Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 943–963 | Cite as

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

  • Margie R. Skeer
  • Erica L. Ballard
Empirical Research


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.


Family meals Adolescent risk Literature review 



We respectfully acknowledge Dr. Misha Eliasziw for her guidance on statistical issues, and Konstantina Yantsides and Allison Barnes for their help and support throughout the writing of this literature review.

Author Contributions

MRS conceived of the review and design and drafted the manuscript. ELB primarily conducted the literature search and drafted the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Health and Community MedicineTufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Center for Alcohol and Addiction StudiesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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