The Benefits of Eating Together as a Family

There are so many benefits of dining together as a family.

As the saying goes, “a family that eats together, stays together.”

This depicts how eating together as a family can help strengthen the bond, better attachment, and encourage healthy development among other benefits that include:

Better Grades in School

Children, adolescents, and young adults who eat dinner with their families on a regular basis are more likely to get better grades in school, be less inclined to use drugs or alcohol, and have fewer problems with depression or anxiety.

These findings come from research conducted at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.

Research has shown that family meals promote better grades for children; however, the University of Minnesota research is the first to demonstrate that family dinners help adolescents achieve higher grades regardless of their family background or socioeconomic status.

Frequent family dinners were associated with better grades for adolescents from families considered to be of high socioeconomic status and those from less advantaged backgrounds, the researchers said,

“Those who ate with their families only once a week had grade-point averages that were 0.15 points higher than students who ate with their families less than once a month.”

Combating Problem Behaviors

“Many factors are linked to adolescent health outcomes, but research consistently shows that eating dinner with parents is one of the key protective factors against problem behaviors,”

report project director Douglas Schrock, associate professor in the University’s College of Education and Human Development, and Julie Birky, assistant professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences.

The report summarizes their findings from the past four years.

Sharing of Useful Information

“What we have learned is that there are many benefits to having dinner as a family, especially if parents use this time to talk with their children about what’s going on in their lives,” Schrock said.

Family dinners don’t have to be formal or fancy, but they do provide an important opportunity for parents and children to share information about the school, friends, activities, and other topics.”

Reduced Chances of Drug and Substance Abuse

The researchers interviewed more than 2,000 adolescents in grades 6 through 12 from families with different structures – traditional two-parent families, single-mother or -father families, stepfamilies, and extended families. They found that adolescents who ate dinner with their parents four to seven times each week were less likely to engage in behaviors such as smoking, drinking, or using illegal drugs.

Eating together frequently was especially important for older students; those who dined with their families six to seven times per week were one-third less likely to use alcohol and one-sixth less likely to smoke. In addition, having dinner with parents was a protective factor against depression and anxiety in older adolescents and young adults.

The positive benefits of family meals were even more pronounced for children from families considered at risk of poor outcomes . For example, frequent family dinners lowered the likelihood that a child from a single-mother household would use alcohol by more than half and eating together five to seven times a week reduced this risk by 72 percent.

Social Interaction, Bonding, and Sense of Belonging

The family dinner is a

“site of social interaction that offers families a number of benefits,”

the researchers concluded. In addition to the findings by the researchers,

“family dinners also help parents stay in touch with their children’s lives and give children a sense of belonging to the family.”

It is also worth noting that interacting as a family while having meals together is a great way to bond.

Conclusion

Due to the numerous benefits that come with eating together as a family, parents should set some time at least a few nights a week to dine with their children. This is important not just for productivity but for their healthy development as well in society.