Background: Having regular family meals has been shown to be protective for child dietary intake (e.g., higher intake of fruit and vegetables). Mothers appear to be most responsible for preparing family meals. Therefore, understanding how mothers perceive their roles around family meals may help identify ways in which to help more families have regular family meals. Methods: United States mothers (n = 83) from the Twin Cities, Minnesota were interviewed during an in-home visit. Researchers trained in qualitative interviewing used a semi-structured approach and asked questions regarding the mothers’ overall perception of their role during family meals. Interviews were coded using a mixed deductive and inductive content analysis approach. The majority of mothers were from minority and low-income households. Results: Mothers described their roles during family meals as the follows: 1) Helping children make healthy choices at family meals; 2) Making the meal happen; 3) Monitoring children's food intake; 4) Managing behavior at the family meal; 5) Making the family meal atmosphere enjoyable; and 6) Facilitating conversation/communication. Two secondary research questions also emerged about the specifics of the mothers’ perception of her role at family meals (i.e., How do mothers deal with fighting or arguing if it occurs at family meals? and What do mothers talk about with children at family meals?) Conclusions: Results show that mothers have a large and varied role during family meals. Additionally, they are willing to put effort into family meals and want them to be enjoyable. Findings also suggest that mothers can be supported by encouraging fuller family participation in family meals and by offering mothers quality nutrition and parent feeding practice information.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research is supported by grant number R56HL116403 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (PI: Jerica Berge) and by grant number R21DK091619 from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease (PI: Jerica Berge). Content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease or the National Institutes of Health.
- Child dietary intake
- Family meals
- Meal atmosphere
- Parent feeding practices