Recent developments have shown that eating meals with your family could be correlated to overall happiness in teenagers.
According to U.S.A. Today, teens who eat meals with their family are less likely to be mentally unstable, and will exhibit fewer behavioural problems. Research shows that teens experience less angst, fewer identity problems, and greater emotional well-being as a result of healthy family relationships.
While the exact connection between mental health and family dinners is unclear, there is a definite correlation. It’s difficult for researchers to pinpoint the aspect of those meals that results in a psychologically healthier teen. Some suggest that they simply provide a way to spend more time with family, and this extra time may formulate a feeling of trust and belonging within an adolescent.
What happens at the dinner table could become a potential area for researchers to explore. Family behaviour at dinner varies widely across cultures, and this may also impact a teen’s emotional health. While conversation at the dinner table is encouraged in some cultures, in others, it may not be appropriate while eating. Researchers are now looking to study the intercultural differences across the general population to identify potential differences in children’s emotional health and its correlation with family eating behaviors.
The age of the child may also play a role within this finding. Adolescents, in general, are not likely to eat meals with their family. In U.S.A. Today, Daniel Miller, assistant professor of social work at Boston University mentioned that his studies have been more focused on the eating habits of younger children, seeing how a wider variety of data can be acquired for this age group. This is due to the fact that a greater percentage of younger children eat with their families, compared to teens.
For young children, family meals are a part of their daily routine. The repetitiveness of this behaviour may form the stability that lies behind increased emotional health for teens who dine with their families.
A study conducted at McGill surveyed eating habits and their correlation with emotional health from anational sample of 26, 069 adolescents aged 11 to 15 years who participated in the 2010 Canadian Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study.
From this study, researchers found that the average adolescent ate dinner with parents almost five times a week. Additionally, the study showed that the more meals the child ate with the family, the less lonely that child felt and the more likely he or she was to be productive in school.
The results of this study are not confined to children, or teenagers in high school. While most students at McGill are studying away from home, it goes to show that we should all make the effort, when we can, to sit down with our families for dinner.