The family dinner, is it just about the food?

Over the past decade research has trickled out from various universities indicating that the family dinner has a positive effect upon the character, social development and academic performance of children. There is no doubt that sharing a family meal is a noble goal worthy of pursuit however, recent research raises the question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does sharing a family dinner produce desirable characteristics in children by itself, or does a family who sits down for a regular dinner have other qualities that produce the improved academic performance and positive outcomes seen in children?

Recent research by David Dickinson, professor of education at Vanderbilt University, indicates that mealtimes were a much stronger predictor of language and literacy development than parents’ reading to children – a surprising result. But as Dickinson points out, if you look more closely at the research it turns out that the verbal content of mealtime conversation is really important. If, during the course of conversation, parents stop and give definitions and examples of new words used in conversation, it is very powerful.

There is no doubt that studies done on family meals clearly show that eating dinner together has a positive effect upon children’s character, social and academic development not to mention their health. While family meals are difficult to achieve with our hectic schedules, they are definitely worth the effort. The more often meals are shared the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs and get depressed, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use. Mealtime civilizes children. Dickinson points out, dinner is one of the few times in modern life when families can sit down together, speak face to face, and build relationships. This is something we can all benefit from, parents and children alike.

Source: Cindy Farricker MS, RD, CDE, Corporate Dietitian, Dream Dinners