Traditional wisdom says that family meals are a great way to improve bonding and relationships among the family members.
Sharing meals at the dining table has been practiced for long as it is considered to enhance social benefits.
The impact is supposed to be more on the children as it is considered to have a bearing on their behavior and academic ranking.
All these concepts about family meals have until now only been observations and no real study has been conducted to prove them.
Hence a formal study was conducted by sociology researchers at the School of Social Work, Boston University. The results of this study are to be published in the latest issue of the journal – Child Development.
Study at the Boston University
Researchers at the Boston University set up a study that involved analysis of 21,400 children between the ages of 5 to 15 years.
Contrary to common beliefs, the scientists revealed an astonishing fact that family meals had norelationship with the behavior or academic excellence of a child. The data used for the analysis is a representative of the nation-wide sample of children in the USA.
The sample consisted of children who had entered elementary school in 1998 and then tracked them down until they reached 8th grade. A fixed effects approach was used to eliminate the effects of other factors that influenced the child’s behavior and studies like variations in schooling, economic status of the parents, exposure to television etc.
Outcomes of the data analysis
Assistant professor Daniel Miller, who has co-authored the research publication, has mentioned that after extensive analysis of the data they could not find any correlation between family meals (breakfasts or dinners) and any outcomes such as behavior or academics. The effects of dining together were almost negligible when it came to behavioral problems and test scores.
Recommendations of the researchers
According to Dr. Miller, the results of the study do not imply that families should skip having meals together.
- Family meals are still a great place for the entire family to get together and interact. It definitely creates a common platform for the family to meet.
- The study only implies that these meals do not have extensive bearing on the behavior and test scoring. Dr. Miller also adds that those families that believe in the effectiveness of this ritual also do other things for their family’s togetherness.
- Hence those families who follow a family meal routine should continue to do so, but for other reasons.