In a post I put up for the last blogging period, I tried to connect eating with a sense of community. Why do people always suggest eating together to get to know a person better? Dates, coffee meetings, lunches – think about the last time you ate a meal and asked someone to come with you because something about eating with someone else bonds people together. There is little research on this topic I proposed, but one campaign that seems to stem from the same idea is the Family Dinner campaign.
The Family Dinner Project suggests eating as a family for a meal, i.e. dinner, not only bonds the family together but has scientific benefits as well. This website says, “Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem.” It also correlates lower risk of obesity and eating disorders which I noted in my last post (but we know correlation does not equal causation, if we’ve learned anything in this class, so this is not scientific proof that what I suggested was right).
However, what about reverse causation? What if families in high socio-economic classes that can afford to have dinner together as a family are the only ones making up the study? In that case, maybe the happiness stems from the family unit and their dinners are simply time they want to be together. This study from Cornell researched previous studies on the benefits of family dinners, aka the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, yet they took into consideration the subjects’ “socio-economic status, maternal employment, single parenthood, and poor quality family relationships.” This showed that problems like teen pregnancy and substance abuse were not related to family dinners, although there was still a correlation in the study to family dinners and improved mental health and “lower depressive symptoms.” Ultimately, the article concluded that families should aim to have minimum 3 family dinners a week that are unplugged and increase communication between children and parents. This could offer a place of stability in the kids’ lives where they know they have a chance to speak.
Lastly, this article suggests that children and parents eating alone and separately can create health problems based on multiple studies. These studies suggest that family meals can prevent an inclination toward fast food and actually lay down the groundwork for healthier habits and lowered risk of eating disorders in the future. After citing multiple studies, it concludes, “In other words, eating well together more frequently could reinforce good individual eating habits and, thus, help people lead healthier and, perhaps, happier lives.”
While some statistics may be skewed since some researchers didn’t account for reverse causation, overall family dinners do help the children mentally. This is not a direct link to my original blog, but I think it suggests that there may be something about eating with another person that builds a stronger bond.