Each Family Dinner Adds Up to Benefits for Adolescents
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2013 Mar 28
Parents have heard it for years: Family dinners help kids avoid risky behaviors and may even help them in school.
But new research shows that the more frequent these dinners, the better the adolescents fare emotionally, says new research published this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
"The effect doesn't plateau after three or four dinners a week," says co-author Frank Elgar, an associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montréal. "The more dinners a week the better."
With each additional dinner, researchers found fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors toward others and higher life satisfaction, regardless of gender, age or family economics. The study was based on a nationally representative sample of 26,069 Canadian adolescents ages 11 to 15 in 2010.
While researchers see a correlation, they can't say family dinners caused the benefits. "We don't know if family dinners contribute to mental health, or if mental health and other behavioral problems cause some teenagers to avoid the family dinner," Elgar says.