Mental and physical health of teens affected by frequency of family dinners
Beacon Staff Reporter
A recent study has shown that family dinners, the influence of family, and the home environment all play a role in an adolescent’s well-being.
The report, published in September of this year, was authored by Frank J. Elgar, Wendy Craig, and Stephen J. Trites and posted in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Frequent family dinners showed a positive effect on emotional well-being, pro-social behavior, and life satisfaction. These studies investigated whether the quality of communication between parents and adolescents played a role in the results.
During the study, the adolescents gave self-report data on the weekly frequency of family dinners, ease of parent–adolescent communication, and five dimensions of mental health – internalizing and externalizing problems, emotional well-being, prosocial behavior and life satisfaction.
A community sample of 26,069 adolescents (aged 11 to 15 years) participated in the Canadian study.
Two related studies also looked at the influence of the family and home environment as an important and neglected area of research related to adolescent obesity.
Teen girls with a healthy body mass index were shown to spend less time being sedentary, have a higher intake of fruits and vegetables, and partake in more meals with the family…including breakfast.
The findings suggest that good family functioning helps teens maintain a healthy weight while also improving their emotional well being.
Some 5,865 adolescents including 3072 in 1999 and the 2793 in in 2010 were covered under the study, which was conducted in the Minneapolis/St Paul area in Minnesota.
A different study – EAT 2010 (Eating and Activity in Teens) – also conducted in the Minneapolis area, was a population-based study designed to assess dietary intake, physical activity, weight control behaviors, and weight status in adolescents.
A recent review found fewer than 10 studies in the past decade that investigated overall family functioning like communication, closeness, problem solving, interpersonal relationships) in relation to childhood and adolescent obesity, whereas several studies have evaluated the association of parenting style like authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, neglectful and parenting practices including modeling health behaviors with childhood weight and weight-related behaviors.
Although parenting behaviors (e.g., parenting style, modeling behaviors, encouraging healthful behaviors) have been found to be related to child weight and health behaviors, they may not account for the overall impact of interpersonal behaviors that occur at the family level that might have an influence on child health behaviors and weight status.
The studies that have evaluated the association between family functioning and youth weight and behaviors of potential relevance for weight status have mainly shown that poor family communication and lower family functioning and were associated with higher body mass index (BMI) in youth.
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