Dozens of studies in the past decade have found that teenagers who regularly eat dinner with their families are healthier, happier, do better in school and engage in fewer risky behaviors than teenagers who don’t regularly eat family dinners. These findings have helped give dinnertime an almost magical aura and have led to no small amount of stress and guilt among busy moms and dads.
But does eating together really make for better-adjusted kids? Or is it just that families that can pull off a regular dinner also tend to have other things (perhaps more money, or more time) that themselves improve child well-being?
Our research, published last month in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marriage and Family, shows that the benefits of family dinners aren’t as strong or as lasting as previous studies suggest.