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Strong Families Often Make Dinner At Home

ITHACA, N.Y. (UPI) — U.S. studies show teens who have dinner with their families have fewer depressive symptoms and substance use, but some researchers challenge those conclusions.

Lead author Kelly Musick of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said the family meal is often touted and encouraged for its social and health benefits for children, but the benefit might be more from the strong family that is able to produce frequent family dinners — and not just the action of having the family eat together.

Musick and co-author Ann Meier of the University of Minnesota found the ability to manage a regular family dinner is in part facilitated by family resources such as time and money, and in part a proxy for other family characteristics, including time together, closeness and communication.

Families with both biological parents present, a mother not working outside the home, higher income and better family relationships ate together more frequently, the researchers found.

Controlling for the quality of family relationships explained much of the family dinner’s association with teen depressive symptoms, substance use and delinquency — three factors typically examined in family meal studies. Only some of these associations held up to analyses of adolescent outcomes over time, the researchers said.

“Family dinners also appear to be part and parcel of a broader package of practices, routines and rituals that reflect parenting beliefs and priorities, and it’s unclear how well family dinners would work unbundled from the rest of that package,” Musick said in a statement.

 

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