Background: Several quantitative studies have found a protective association between family meal frequency and child and adolescent weight and weight-related behaviors (e.g., healthy dietary intake, less disordered eating behaviors). However, limited qualitative research has been conducted to understand more in depth about family meal-level characteristics (e.g., rules, responsibilities, and interpersonal dynamics) that may be risk or protective factors for child weight and weight-related behaviors. The current study aimed to identify family meal-level characteristics within racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse households that were similar and/or different between households with and without an overweight/obese child. Methods: The current study is a qualitative study including 118 parents of children ages 6-12 who participated in the Family Meals, LIVE! study. Parents (92% female) were from racially/ethnically (87% minority) and socioeconomically (73% <$35,000 per year) diverse households. Parents were individually interviewed during a home visit. Data were stratified by child weight status (i.e., normal weight vs. overweight/obese) and analyzed using deductive and inductive content analysis. Results: Qualitative results showed some similarities and some differences in family meal-level characteristics by child weight status that may provide insight into past research showing significant associations between family meal frequency and child weight and weight-related behaviors. Similar themes between families with and without an overweight/obese child included: family meals provide more healthful food; rules about manners; meal planning; and involving children in meal preparation. Themes that were different between families with and without an overweight/obese child included: connection and communication; "clean your plate rule"; electronic devices; and child behavior problems. Conclusions: Findings from the current study may be useful for developing interventions for racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse households with and without an overweight/obese child to be delivered through family meals.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research is supported by grant no. R21DK091619 from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease (Principal Investigator: 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 Child Health and Human Development, or the National Institutes of Health.