Objective: To examine and compare the family mealtime environment from the perspectives of both adolescents and parents. Design: Adolescents completed a school-based survey and parents participated in a telephone interview as part of Project EAT (Eating Among Teens). Subjects/setting: Participants were 902 adolescent females (n=424) and males (n=478) and one of their guardians/parents. Statistical analyses performed: Frequencies, χ 2 analyses, and Spearman correlations were used to assess relationships. Results: Parents were more likely than adolescents to report eating five or more family meals per week, the importance of eating together, and scheduling difficulties (P<0.001). Younger adolescents were more likely than older adolescents to report eating five or more family meals per week, higher importance of eating together, and more rule expectations at mealtime (P<0.001), whereas older adolescents were more likely to report scheduling difficulties (P<0.001). Girls reported more family meals per week and more scheduling conflicts than boys did; boys reported more rules at mealtime than girls did (P<0.001). Conclusions: Family meals are perceived positively by both adolescents and parents. Family meals may be a useful mechanism for enhancing family togetherness, and for role modeling behaviors that parents would like their children to emulate. Dietetics professionals can capitalize on positive attitudes toward family meals to help promote their frequency. Helping families learn to cook healthful, quick meals may reduce dependency on less healthful meal options, reduce the frequency of eating outside of the home, and promote greater nutritional intake.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding for the present study was provided by Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Service Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services (MCJ-270834).