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Assessing the relationship between family mealtime communication and adolescent emotional well-being using the experience sampling method

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While most prior research has focused on the frequency of family meals the issue of which elements of family mealtime are most salient for adolescents' well-being has remained overlooked. The current study used the experience sampling method, a unique form of time diary, and survey data drawn from the 500 Family Study (N = 237 adolescents with 8122 observations) to examine the association between family mealtime communication and teens' emotional well-being. Results showed that in approximately half of the time spent on family meals (3 h per week on average) adolescents reported talking to their parents. Hierarchical linear model analyses revealed that controlling for the quality of family relationships family mealtime communication was significantly associated with higher positive affect and engagement and with lower negative affect and stress. Findings suggest that family meals constitute an important site for communication between teens and parents that is beneficial to adolescents' emotional well-being.
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Assessing the relationship between family mealtime
communication and adolescent emotional well-being using
the experience sampling method
Shira Offer
*
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 52900, Israel
Keywords:
Adolescent well-being
Family meals
Family mealtime communication
Multilevel models
abstract
While most prior research has focused on the frequency of family meals the issue of which
elements of family mealtime are most salient for adolescentswell-being has remained
overlooked. The current study used the experience sampling method, a unique form of
time diary, and survey data drawn from the 500 Family Study (N¼237 adolescents with
8122 observations) to examine the association between family mealtime communication
and teensemotional well-being. Results showed that in approximately half of the time
spent on family meals (3 h per week on average) adolescents reported talking to their
parents. Hierarchical linear model analyses revealed that controlling for the quality of
family relationships family mealtime communication was signicantly associated with
higher positive affect and engagement and with lower negative affect and stress. Findings
suggest that family meals constitute an important site for communication between teens
and parents that is benecial to adolescentsemotional well-being.
Ó2013 The Foundation for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Published by Elsevier
Ltd. All rights reserved.
Family meals have been heralded in both scholarly research and the popular press as an important contributor to youth
development. Studies show that the frequency of family meals is positively associated with a myriad of health and well-being
outcomes. Adolescents who frequently eat meals with their family are healthier (Fulkerson, Kubik, Story, Lytle, & Arcan, 2009;
Hammons & Fiese, 2011), less likely to have eating disorders (Hammons & Fiese, 2011;Neumark-Sztainer, Eisenberg,
Fulkerson, Story, & Larson, 2008), engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs (Eisenberg,
Olson, Neumark-Sztainer, Story, & Bearinger, 2004;Franko, Thompson, Affenito, Barton, & Striegel-Moore, 2008;Fulkerson,
Story, et al., 2006;Musick & Meier, 2012;National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, CASA, 2010;Sen, 2010), and
have higher school achievement (CASA, 2010;Eisenberg et al., 2004).
Research further shows that family meals are benecial to adolescentspsychosocial adjustment. Using data from the
National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) Musick and Meier (2012) reported that frequent family
dinners are related to a reduction in depressive symptoms. A similar pattern was observed among adolescents who partic-
ipated in the Eating Among Teens (EAT) Project (Eisenberg et al., 2004). The frequency of family meals was also found to be
related to higher social competence (Fulkerson, Story, et al., 2006) and lower perceived stress (Franko et al., 2008). This study
focuses on the association between family mealtime and teensemotional well-being.
The burgeoning literature on family meals has proposed several mechanisms by which family meals promote youth health
and well-being. Family meals, it is argued, constitute an important ritual and a major site for socialization (Fiese & Schwartz,
*Tel.: þ972 3 5318651; fax: þ972 3 7384037.
E-mail address: shira.offer@biu.ac.il.
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Journal of Adolescence
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jado
0140-1971/$ see front matter Ó2013 The Foundation for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2013.03.007
Journal of Adolescence 36 (2013) 577585
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2008;Fiese et al., 2002;Larson, Branscomb, & Wiley, 2006). Gathering at the table gives teens and their parents the op-
portunity to converse, express their feelings, and provide support to each other, which is important for reinforcing the social
bonds between them and building a sense of family togetherness (Fiese et al., 2002;Ochs & Shohet, 2006). Ochs and Shohet
(2006) further contended that family meals serve a moral function because they are pervaded by talk oriented toward
reinforcing what is right and wrong about both the family and outsiders(p. 42). Hence by eating meals together, parents can
convey key values to their children (Fiese, Foley, & Spagnola, 2006;Shaw, 2008). Family meals also facilitate parental
monitoring and supervision (Fiese et al., 2006;Neumark-Sztainer, Hannan, Story, Croll, & Perry, 2003;Ochs & Shohet, 2006;
Sen, 2010). Through conversations at the dinner table parents learn about their childrens daily activities and whereabouts.
According to ndings from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse study nearly 80% of the parents inter-
viewed mentioned that family meals gave them the opportunity to learn more about what was going on in their teenslives
(CASA, 2010).
Overall, these studies suggest that one of the most important aspects of family mealsis communication between teens and
parents (Fiese et al., 2006;Fiese & Schwartz, 2008;Larson et al., 2006;Ochs & Shohet, 2006). Research shows that mealtime
communication is associated with lower emotional distress (Fiese et al., 2006) and a reduced risk of overweight among teens
(Jacobs & Fiese, 2007). Families, however, vary considerably in the extent to which they directly interact during mealtime
(Fiese & Schwartz, 2008). One major source of distraction during family meals is television, which is considered an important
inhibitor of social interactions (Feldman, Eisenberg, Neumark-Sztainer, & Story, 2007;Fiese & Schwartz, 2008;Jordan,
Hershey, McDivitt, & Heitzler, 2006).
In other words, it is not so much the family meal per se that is important for teenswell-being but what happens between
family members when they gather to share a meal. This important aspect of the family meal, however, has been relatively
overlooked in current research (Neumark-Sztainer, Larson, Fulkerson, Eisenberg, & Story, 2010). The major goal of the present
study is to ll in this gap in the literature by focusing on family mealtime communication. Musick and Meier (2012) noted that
future work needs to go further in assessing which elements of mealtime are most salient, looking beyond how often families
eat together.To respond to this call, this study examined the frequency of family mealtime communication and assessed its
relationship with adolescentsemotional well-being. Specically, it evaluated (1) what proportion of family mealtime is spent
on direct communication between adolescents and their parents, and (2) how adolescents feel when they communicate with
their parents during mealtime. On the basis of the literature suggesting that family meals constitute an important site for
familial social interactions, I hypothesized that family mealtime communication would be associated with increased
emotional well-being among teens.
Measuring family meals and family mealtime communication
Most of the research conducted on family mealtime has examined the number of days per week that children eat
with their family, with at least ve meals per week considered to be the optimal cut-off point for healthy outcomes
(CASA, 2010;Fiese & Schwartz, 2008). Studies, however, differ in the way they dene a family meal in terms of the
people present and whether it refers to a specic meal, typically dinner, or not. For example, in the Eating Among Teens
(EAT) project, respondents were asked about the number of times a week all, or most, of the family in their house ate a
meal together without specifying who was present (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2010). Musick and Meiers(2012)study
used a more specic measure that asked whether respondents ate ve or more evening meals a week with at least one
of their parents. They found that 60% of the adolescents in their sample t this category. A similar number was reported
by Sen using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) who indicated that 57% of adolescent girls and nearly
64% of adolescent boys ate dinner with their family at least 5 days a week, without specifying who was present during
the meal.
Other studies are based on time diaries and calculate the number of minutes a day (or hours per week) adolescents eat
with their family. Using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), Wight, Price, Bianchi, and Hunt (2009) calculated that a third
of the teens ate a meal with their family for at least 20 min a day between 4 pm and 9 pm. Crouter, Head, McHale, and Tucker
(2004) employed a more inclusive measure of family meal and found that teens spent almost 2 h a week eating meals with
both of their parents and siblings present.
Most of these studies focus on the frequency of family meals but they do not account for what teens and their parents
do besides eating when they share a meal. The current study uses a different methodology, the experience sampling
method (ESM), to estimate not only the frequency of family meals but also the extent of family mealtime communication.
The ESM is a form of time diary that collects information in situ about respondentsactivities, companionships, and
emotional states (Hektner, Schmidt, & Csikszentmihalyi, 2007). The ESM has several advantages. First, it makes it possible
to calculate accurate estimates of the overall amount of time adolescents spend eating meals with their parents under
different family constellations (i.e., with the mother only, with the father only, and with both parents present) and is not
limited to dinner time. As Musick and Meier (2012) pointed out, the benets of shared meals may not be restricted to the
evening meal.Second, because the ESM collected data on both primary and secondary activities it can be used to learn
about what other activities adolescents engage in besides consuming food when they eat meals together with their family.
The ESM thus allows estimating how much time adolescents spend communicating with their parents during family
mealtime.
S. Offer / Journal of Adolescence 36 (2013) 577585578
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Family meals, family mealtime communication, and the quality of family relationships
This study estimated the association between family mealtime communication and adolescentsemotional well-being
while controlling for the quality of family relationships. As pointed out in previous research, the frequency of family meals
may be confounded with other variables, most notably the quality of family relations. Studies have found that teens spent
more time (Crouter et al., 2004) and ate meals (CASA, 2010;Franko et al., 2008) more frequently with their family when
relations with their parents were warmer and more supportive, and when they reported a positive atmosphere during
mealtimes (Fulkerson, Neumark-Sztainer, & Story, 2006;Fulkerson, Story, et al., 2006), suggesting that the association be-
tween family meals and well-being may be the result of selection bias. The same concern arises with respect to family
mealtime communication. Family members may be more likely to communicate during meals when their relationships are
good (Jordan et al., 2006).
Research shows, however, that for many outcomes the association between family meals and adolescent well-being re-
mains signicant after adjusting for variables such as family connectedness (Eisenberg et al., 2004;Neumark-Sztainer et al.,
2003;Sen, 2010), cohesion and closeness (Franko et al., 2008;Musick & Meier, 2012), support (Fulkerson, Neumark-Sztainer,
et al., 2006;Fulkerson, Story, et al., 2006), and parental control (Musick & Meier, 2012). Additionally, longitudinal studies have
found that frequent family meals are correlated with lower rates of substance use (Eisenberg et al., 2004;Neumark-Sztainer
et al., 2008;Sen, 2010) and depressive symptoms (Musick & Meier, 2012) in subsequent years.
Altogether, these studies suggest that family meals are more than a mere proxy for some other family characteristics.
Although they do not make it possible to rule out the possibility that families with good (poor) quality relationships seek out
(avoid) eating meals together and communicating during family meals, they underscore the importance of controlling for the
quality of family relationships when estimating the association between family mealtime communication and adolescents
well-being. The present study includes three variables to control for the quality of family relationships: parental monitoring,
teen self-disclosure, and parental support.
Contextual and demographic controls
The present study also controlled for several contextual and demographic characteristics which have been shown to affect
teenslikelihood of spending time and eating meals with their family. Previous research indicates that adolescents spend
more time with their family over the weekend (Larson & Richards, 1998;Larson, Richards, Moneta, Holmbeck, & Duckett,
1996) and when they are at home (Larson & Richards, 1994). It has also been shown that adolescents eat meals with their
family less frequently as they grow older and that adolescent girls are less likely to have family meals than adolescent boys
(Fulkerson et al., 2009,Fulkerson, Neumark-Sztainer, et al., 2006;Fulkerson, Story, et al., 2006;Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2003;
Sen, 2010).
Method
Participants
The data are drawn from the 500 Family Study, a research project on the work, school, and home experiences of parents in
dual-earner families and their children. Participants were recruited in 1999 and 2000 through posts at local schools and
newspapers in eight urban and suburban communities across the United States. The study includes predominantly non-
Hispanic white families with highly educated parents whose average earnings were above the national average for mar-
ried parents in the United States. For more information about the study and the participantsdemographic characteristics, see
Hoogstra (2005).
Procedure
The 500 Family Study is a mixed-method study. Participants completed a survey and lled in the experience sampling
method (ESM). The ESM is a unique form of time diary that collects information about respondentsactivities, surroundings,
and emotional states as they occur in their natural setting over the course of a typical week (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1987;
Hektner et al., 2007). In this study, participants carried alarm watches that were pre-programmed to randomly emit eight
signals during their waking hours for seven consecutive days. When signaled, participants were asked to indicate what they
were doing, where they were, who was with them, and how they were feeling in a self-report questionnaire. The ESM is
considered a highly valid and reliable instrument that provides accurate information about individualstime uses and sub-
jective experiences (Hektner et al., 2007). A major advantage of the ESM is that it provides detailed information about the
multiple activities respondents are engaged in simultaneously (Hektner et al., 2007;Schneider, 2006) and therefore makes it
possible to examine what activities respondents are engaged in besides consuming food when they eat with their family.
The analyses in the current study are based on data collected from the adolescents who lled in both the survey and the
ESM. Preliminary analyses showed that the excluded teens (i.e., teens who did not ll in the ESM) were more likely than those
included to be boys and report lower family support. The adolescents responded, on average, to 30 out of 56 signals and,
S. Offer / Journal of Adolescence 36 (2013) 577585 579
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consistent with previous research, those respondents who missed more than one fourth of the signals (n¼65) were excluded
from the sample (Schneider, 2006). The nal sample consisted of 237 respondents with 8122 signals.
Missing data in the four emotional outcomes and survey measures were imputed using a multiple imputation technique
with AMELIA II software (Honaker, King, & Blackwell, 2009). Seventy-four signals could not be imputed because the re-
spondents did not answer any of the emotional items prompted by these signals. This is not problematic, however, because in
multilevel modeling respondents can miss some signals, or items in a signal, and still be included in the model. Imputing
missing data did not yield signicantly different results.
Measures
Family meals
In the ESM respondents were asked to report the main activity they were engaged in when signaled. Responses to this
question were originally coded by trained coders into more than 400 activity codes (all items were double coded with
interrater reliabilities ranging from
k
¼0.790.95). One of these codes was eating a meal. Respondents were also asked to
indicate who they were with when signaled. I used these two questions to construct three dummy family meal measures:
meals with the mother only, meals with the father only, and meals with both parents. Due to low frequencies, I later collapsed
these three measures into one measure, referred to as family meals, which indicates whether respondents were having a meal
with either their mother only, fatheronly, or both parents when signaled (yes ¼1, no ¼0). This global measure of family meals
was used in all the multivariate analyses.
Family mealtime communication
A major advantage of the ESM is that it asked respondents to report not only on their primary activity but also on their
secondary activity, if they had any. I used answers to this question to identify signals in which respondents indicated that they
were directly interacting with their parents during mealtime. This dummy measure, referred to as family mealtime
communication, indicates whether respondents were talking to their parents while eating with them (yes ¼1, no ¼0).
Other family mealtime activities
Using responses to the second activity item, I identied two other categories of family mealtime activity. Family mealtime
leisure refers to activities such as watching television, reading, listening to music, and playing computer games during family
meals. Because the frequency of watching television during family meals in this sample was small (3 signals for meals with
the mother only, 8 signals for meals with the father only, and 8 signals for meals with both parents) I did not treat it as a
separate category. The measure other family mealtime activities refers to activities such as helping with the dishes, talking on
the phone, cooking, and playing with a pet. Finally, signals inwhich respondents did not report any additional activity besides
eating with their parents were coded as nothing else.
Emotional well-being
In the ESM respondents were asked to report how they were feeling when signaled. I used these items to construct four
composite measures of emotional well-being. These are the means of (a) positive affect dfeeling cheerful, happy, and good
about oneself when signaled (
a
¼0.69); (b) engagement denjoying the activity, nding it interesting, feeling involved in the
activity, and wishing to do something else (reverse coded) (
a
¼0.65); (c) negative affect dfeeling angry, irritated, and
frustrated (
a
¼0.90); and (d) stress dfeeling stressed and strained (
a
¼0.80). The response categories for all these items
ranged from 0 (not at all)to3(very much). As Table 1 shows, adolescents in this study reported, on average, relatively high
levels of positive affect and engagement and low levels of negative affect and stress.
Table 1
Descriptive statistics for well-being measures and controls (N¼237 adolescents with 8122 signals).
Mean SD Range
a
Well-being outcomes (ESM)
a
Positive affect 1.98 0.38 03 0.69
Engagement 1.62 0.32 03 0.65
Negative affect 0.48 0.35 03 0.90
Stress 0.51 0.38 03 0.80
Contextual controls (ESM)
a
Weekend 0.25 0.12 01
Home 0.45 0.14 01
Demographic controls (survey)
Adolescent boy 40.5
Age 15.38 1.60 1118
Quality of family relationships (survey)
Parental monitoring 1.77 0.64 03 0.66
Teen self-disclosure 1.71 0.60 04 0.80
Family support 2.24 0.46 03 0.87
a
Estimates were calculated at the aggregated person-level.
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Controls
I included two contextual controls drawn from the ESM. Weekend refers to whether the signal occurred during the weekend
and home to whether it occurred while the respondent was at home (yes ¼1, no ¼0). The demographic controls were drawn
from the survey. Gender was coded as a dummyvariable (boy ¼1, girl ¼0) and age was measured in years. As shown in Table 1,
the sample included fewer adolescent boys (40.5%) than adolescent girls. The average age was 15.4 (SD ¼1.6).
Using the survey data, the analyses also adjusted for the quality of family relationships. Parental monitoring was the mean of
ve items that asked respondents to indicate, on a scale ranging from 0 (never)to3(often), how often their parents check on
whether they have done their homework, limit the amount of time they spend watching TV or playing video or computer games,
limit the amount of time they go out with friends on school nights, call to check when they are out with friends, and ask them to
call home when they are out with friends (
a
¼0.66). Teen self-disclosure was the mean of 16 questions that asked respondents
how often they discuss issues with their parents, such as things they have studied in class, going to college, who theirfriends are,
drugs, and dating (
a
¼0.80). The response categories forall these itemsranged from0 (never)to4(23 times a week). These two
measures were adapted from the Sloan Study of Youth and Social Development (see Hoogstra, 2005). Family support, based on
Rathundes (1996) index, was the mean of 16 items that asked how often in the respondents family, for example, Ifeel
appreciated for who I am;I dothings I like to do without feeling embarrassed; and If I have a problem, I get special attention
and help(
a
¼0.87). The response categories ranged from 0 (never)to3(often). The adolescents in this study reported, on
average, relatively high levels of parental monitoring and family support and medium levels of self-disclosure (see Table 1).
Analysis strategy
I began by providing descriptive information about the frequency of family meals and family mealtime communication. In the
next stage, I used hierarchical linear modeling to examine the association between family mealtime communication and teens
emotional well-being. The major advantage of hierarchical linear modeling is that it accounts for the nonindependence of ob-
servations within individuals and can be used to estimate the signal-level (within-respondent level) and person-level (between-
respondent level) simultaneously (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002). First, the global measure of family meals was used asa predictor of
the four emotional well-being outcomes then the measure of family mealtime communication was used as a predictor. These
models can be expressed with two sets of equations. The rst is awithin-person (i.e. signal) levelequation that models emotional
well-being as a function of whether the respondent was eating a meal with his or her parents and level-1 controls:
Positive affectij ¼
b
0jþ
b
1jðfamily mealtime communicationÞij þ
b
2jðweekendÞij þ
b
3jðhomeÞij þ
3
ij (1)
The dependent variable is the score on emotional outcome (positive affect in this illustration) on signal ifor person j. In this
equation
b
0j
is the intercept,
b
1j
denotes the association between having a family mealtime communication signal and positive
affect,
b
2j
and
b
3j
respectively denote the association between having weekend and home signals and positive affect, and
3
ij
is
the within-person residual. In this equation the intercept is allowed to vary randomly across individuals. This variation is then
explained using the second equation, which estimates variation across respondents in
b
0j
as a function of covariates Z:
b
0j¼
g
00 þ
g
01Z1jþ
g
02Z2jþ.þ
g
0kZkj þ
n
0j(2)
In the person-level equation
g
00
is the average score on positive affect,
g
01
to
g
0k
are the regression coefcients of the
estimated effects of the covariates Z(i.e. age, gender, parental monitoring, teen self-disclosure, and parental support) on the
adjusted positive affect score, and
n
0j
is the person-level error term assumed to be normally distributed with mean zero and
unknown variance.
The hierarchical linear models also control for the aggregated person-mean levels of time spent on family meals in order to
differentiate between the within-person and between-person effects of family meals on well-being (Hoffman & Stawski,
2009). This control accounts for potential variation between respondents in the overall amount of time they spend eating
meals with their parents and consequently provides more accurate estimates of the association between family meals, family
mealtime communication, and well-being.
Results
The frequency of family meals and family mealtime communication
How much time do adolescents spend eating meals with their family and what proportion of that time is spent on direct
communication with parents? Table 2 presents the frequency distribution of family meals. The adolescents in this study spent
overall a small amount of their waking time eating meals with their parents. Only about 3% of the signals corresponded to
family meals with either the mother only, the father only, or both parents. ESM proportions can be multiplied by 112 (16
average waking hours per day 7 days a week) to derive a weekly estimate of the number of hours spent in family meals (see
Schneider, 2006). Hence this percentage corresponds to 3.36 h a week of family meals. Slightly more than one percent of the
signals were spent in family meals with both parents (1.2%) and with the mother only (1.1%), the equivalent of 1.34 and 1.23 h
a week, respectively. The adolescents ate less frequently with their father only (0.67 h a week).
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To estimate the proportion of family mealtime spent on direct communication with parents I categorized each family meal
measure by type of secondary activity. Table 3 shows the percentage of signals spent on direct communication, leisure, other
activities, and nothing else, out of all the signals corresponding to family meals for each family meal measure. The results
indicate that most family meal signals were spent in direct communication with parents (42.7%, 37.0%, and 54.7% for meals
with the mother only, the father only, and both parents, respectively). Overall, adolescents talked with their parents in almost
half of their shared meals (46.5%). Note that the highest percentage of family mealtime communication was found for meals
with both parents present. These teens were also less likely to engage in a leisure activity, such as watching television or
listening to music, during family meals when both of their parents were present. Teens engaged in a leisure activity when
both parents were present in only 13.7% of the family meal signals, compared to 22.5% when they ate meals with their mother
only and 34.8% when they ate meals with their father only. In 20% of all family meal signals teens reported doing nothing else
aside from eating when they shared a meal with both parents, compared to 14.6% and 17.4% when they ate meals with their
mother only and father only, respectively.
The association between family mealtime communication and adolescents emotional well-being
How do adolescents feel when they eat meals with their parents and, more specically, how do they feel when they
communicate with their parents during mealtime? Table 4 presents the results of a series of hierarchical linear analyses that
estimated the association between family meals and the four ESM well-being measures (Model 1) and between family
mealtime communication and these outcomes (Model 2), controlling for location and time of the week at level-1 and age,
gender, and the quality of family relations at level-2. Because the number of signals in each family meal measure was small, I
did not examine meals with the mother only, meals with the father only, and meals with both parents separately but rather
collapsed them into one global measure (i.e., family meals).
As Table 4 shows, respondents reported higher positive affect (b¼0.16, p<0.001) and engagement (b¼0.22, p<0.001)
and lower negative affect (b¼0.13, p<0.001) and stress (b¼0.09, p<0.001) when they ate meals with their parents
compared to when they did not. As hypothesized, family mealtime communication was particularly benecial to adolescents
emotional well-being. Family mealtime communication was associated with higher positive affect (b¼0.22, p<0.001) and
engagement (b¼0.33, p<0.001) and lower negative affect (b¼0.15, p<0.001) and stress (b¼0.15, p<0.001). Note that
the associations between each of these outcomes and family mealtime communication were stronger than their associations
with the global measure of family meals.
Discussion
The literature highlights the benecial effects of family meals for adolescentshealth and well-being. Yet the question of
what particular aspect of the family meal contributes to adolescentswell-being has not been systematically examined in
quantitative research (Fiese & Schwartz, 2008;Musick & Meier, 2012). This study built upon and extended previous research
on family mealtimes by specically focusing on family mealtime communication and its associations with adolescents
emotional well-being.
The rst research goal was to determine how often adolescents eat meals with their family and what proportion of that
shared time is spent on direct communication with parents. This study found thatoverall, teens spent slightly more than 3 h a
week eating meals with their parents, either with their mother only, father only, or both parents present. If, as Fiese and
Table 2
Frequency of family meals, by family constellation and overall (N¼237 adolescents with 8122 signals).
Mean
a
SD
a
Hours/week
Mother only 1.1 2.26 1.23
Father only 0.6 1.37 0.67
Both parents 1.2 2.29 1.34
All family meals 2.9 3.55 3.25
a
Means and standard deviations were calculated at the aggregated person-level out of the respondents total number of
signals.
Table 3
Family meals by type of secondary activity: percentages (N¼237 adolescents with 8122 signals).
Communication Leisure Other activities Nothing else Total
Mother only 42.7 22.5 20.2 14.6 100
Father only 37.0 34.8 10.9 17.4 100
Both parents 54.7 13.7 11.6 20.0 100
All family meals 46.5 21.3 14.7 17.4 100
Note: Estimates were calculated at the signal-level out of all family meal signals.
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Table 4
Hierarchical linear models results predicting adolescentsemotional well-being with family meals (Model 1) and family mealtime communication (Model 2), and controls (N¼237 respondents with 8122signals).
Positive affect Engagement Negative affect Stress
Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2
b(SE) b(SE) b(SE) b(SE) b(SE) b(SE) b(SE) b(SE)
Intercept 2.03*** (0.03) 2.03*** (0.03) 1.56*** (0.03) 1.56*** (0.03) 0.49*** (0.02) 0.49*** (0.02) 0.56*** (0.03) 0.56*** (0.03)
Signal-level
Family meals 0.16*** (0.04) 0.22*** (0.05) 0.13*** (0.03) 0.09** (0.03)
Family mealtime
communication
0.22*** (0.05) 0.33*** (0.07) 0.15*** (0.04) 0.15*** (0.04)
Weekend 0.08*** (0.02) 0.08*** (0.02) 0.17*** (0.02) 0.17*** (0.02) 0.05** (0.02) 0.05** (0.02) 0.10*** (0.02) 0.10*** (0.02)
Home 0.13* (0.02) 0.13* (0.02) 0.01 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02) 0.01 (0.02) 0.00 (0.02) 0.04** (0.02) 0.04** (0.02)
Person-level
Boy 0.03 (0.04) 0.03 (0.04) 0.01 (0.04) 0.01 (0.04) 0.00 (0.04) 0.00 (0.04) 0.01 (0.04) 0.01 (0.04)
Age 0.05** (0.01) 0.05** (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.02 (0.01) 0.02 (0.01)
Parental monitoring 0.01 (0.04) 0.01 (0.04) 0.02 (0.04) 0.02 (0.04) 0.08* (0.04) 0.08* (0.04) 0.07 (0.05) 0.07 (0.04)
Teen self-disclosure 0.04 (0.05) 0.04 (0.05) 0.04 (0.04) 0.04 (0.04) 0.11* (0.05) 0.11* (0.05) 0.13** (0.05) 0.13** (0.05)
Family support 0.37*** (0.06) 0.37*** (0.06) 0.17** (0.05) 0.18*** (0.05) 0.24*** (0.07) 0.24*** (0.07) 0.11 (0.06) 0.11 (0.06)
Person mean
family meals
0.31 (0.55) 0.03 (0.06) 0.14 (0.59) 0.04 (0.05) 0.05 (0.61) 0.05 (0.47) 0.16 (0.61) 0.02 (0.06)
Within-person
variance
s
2
0.34 0.34 0.57 0.57 0.38 0.38 0.28 0.28
Between-person
variance
s
00
0.11 0.11 0.08 0.08 0.09 0.09 0.12 0.12
*p<.05. ** p<.01. *** p<.001.
S. Offer / Journal of Adolescence 36 (2013) 577585 583
Author's personal copy
Schwartz (2008) suggest, family meals typically last 20 min, this corresponds to almost 10 shared meals a week and implies
that teens and their parents eat not only dinners together but other meals as well. More importantly, the ndings indicate that
in nearly half of the time spent in family meals, adolescents reported talking to their parents. Family mealtime communi-
cation was especially high during family meals when both parents were present. These ndings corroborate previous research
and provide further evidence that shared meals give family members the opportunity to interact and communicate (Fiese
et al., 2006;Fiese & Schwartz, 2008;Larson et al., 2006;Ochs & Shohet, 2006).
The second research goal was aimed at testing how adolescents feel when they eat meals with their parents. As hy-
pothesized, results from the hierarchical linear model analyses revealed that family mealtime communication was benecial
to adolescentsemotional well-being. Family mealtime communication was found to be signicantly associated with higher
positive affect and engagement and lower negative affect and stress among these adolescents. Consistent with previous
research (CASA, 2010;Fiese et al., 2006;Fulkerson, Neumark-Sztainer, et al., 2006;Fulkerson, Story, et al., 2006), these
ndings suggest that family meals are an enjoyable activity for teens and constitute an important site for positive connections
and interactions between teens and parents, which contributes to adolescentswell-being.
Limitations, strengths, and directions for future research
This study has several limitations. First, because the sample consisted of dual-earner middle-class families it did not make
it possible to examine variations in family meals and family mealtime communication by socioeconomic status or parental
composition. Previous studies have shown that families of higher socioeconomic status eat meals together more frequently
(Fiese & Schwartz, 2008;Musick & Meier, 2012;Wight et al., 2009) and are less likely to watch television during shared meals
than families of lower status (Feldman et al., 2007). This important family routine may also be more difcult to maintain in
families headed by one parent compared to families headed by a couple because a single parent has no spouse or partner with
whom to share the work involved in preparing family meals (Tubbs, Roy, & Burton, 2005;Wight et al., 2009).
Second, the homogenous nature of the sample did not allow for testing differences by race and ethnicity. Previous research
has provided mixed results regarding the effect of race and ethnicity on family meal patterns. A recent study has shown that
minority teens in the United Kingdom are more likely than white teens to eat meals with their family (Maynard & Harding,
2010). Similar patterns have been observed among African American teenagers in the United States (Larson, Richards, Sims, &
Dworkin, 2001). By contrast, Wight et al. (2009) found that African American teens are less likely to eat meals with their
family than white teens. More research is needed to clarify the effects of race and ethnicity on the frequency and experience of
family meals.
Other limitations pertain to the cross-sectional and non-experimental design of the study, which is not suited for making
causal claims. This study cannot rule out the possibility that the benecial association between family meals, family mealtime
communication, and adolescentswell-being may be due to reverse causation; that is, that well-adjusted teens are more
willing to eat with their family and communicate with them during shared meals than their less well-adjusted counterparts.
Nor can the analyses account for the possibility that these associations are due to some unobserved characteristic of the
adolescent, parent, or both. Interestingly, Jordan et al. (2006) indicated that some of the parents in their study mentioned
watching television during family meals as a way to avoid conictual interactions with their children. Hence, although the
analyses controlled for the quality of family relationships, adolescents could have sought out or avoided communicating with
their parents during family meals as a function of some prior characteristic of the home environment. This is of particular
concern because respondents who did not ll in the ESM and were consequently excluded from the study were more likely
than those included to have reported lower family support. Therefore, adolescents in families with lower relational quality
may have been selected out, leading to inated estimates. Another potentially confounding factor that was not accounted for
in this study is parenting style. Following Berge, Wall, Neumark-Sztainer, Larson, and Story's (2010) nding that an author-
itative parenting style was associated with more frequent family meals, one can expect parenting style to also affect patterns
of family mealtime communication.
Despite these limitations, the current study makes an important contribution to the literature on family meals, and family
time more generally. The methodology it employed, the ESM, provided accurate measures of the overall amountof time teens
spent in family meals and made it possible to estimate how frequently they communicated during shared meals. The focus on
all family meals, rather than family dinners only, constitutes a major advantage of the present study.
Finally, by showing that the communication that goes on between teens and their parents during family meals was highly
benecial to adolescentswell-being, this study helped answer the important question of what is it about family meals that
explains better outcomes in youth(Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2010, p. 1119). Hence as an important routine and site for social
interactions between family members, family meals should be encouraged and facilitated. Nevertheless it should be
remembered that family meals are not the only arena for family communication (Kremer-Sadlik & Paugh, 2007;Musick &
Meier, 2012). Future research should also pay attention to other activities and routines that give families the opportunity
to communicate and build positive and enjoyable relationships.
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... For example, studies have shown that having many opportunities for shared mealtimes with the family is associated with enhanced SWB and self-esteem, reduced stress and depressive tendency, and a lower likelihood of binge eating and becoming overweight; it can also protect against various risk behaviors, such as violence and school problems (Chisuwa, Kitabe, & Haruki, 2014;M. E. Eisenberg, Olson, Neumark-Sztainer, Story, & Bearinger, 2004;Elgar, Craig, & Trites, 2013;Fulkerson, Kubik, Story, Lytle, & Arcan, 2009;Fulkerson et al., 2006;Haines, Kleinman, Rifas-Shiman, Field, & Austin, 2010;Kawasaki, 2001;Offer, 2013;Takano, Nouchi, Takano, Kojima, & Sato, 2009;Tominaga, Shimizu, Mori, Kodama, & Sato, 2001). Snow and Beals (2006) further reported that mealtime communication helps to improve communication skills. ...
... Trait shyness has previously been reported to be related to SWB (Neto, 1993). Furthermore, previous studies have found that shared mealtimes with family can have beneficial effects; for instance, in a longitudinal study, Musick and Meier (2012) reported that family meals reduce depressive symptoms, while habitual family meals can enhance SWB (Offer, 2013). Moreover, trait shyness was found to have a negative relationship with shared mealtime quality. ...
... Moreover, trait shyness was found to have a negative relationship with shared mealtime quality. This is expected, considering the definition of shared mealtime quality ("sharing enjoyment in the presence of others at mealtime"; Kimura et al., 2018), the fact that sharing meals is a form of communication (Offer, 2013), and the fact that trait shyness acts as a barrier to communication (Pilkonis, 1977). Therefore, shy persons may easily feel stress in mealtime communication with friends. ...
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... One criticism of family mealtime research has been that patterns and types of family interaction identified within mealtimes and associated with adjustment and relationship outcomes, may reflect behaviours across a variety of contexts so that they may not be evidence of the significance of mealtimes in particular (Musick & Meier, 2012;Offer, 2013;Pike & Leahy 2016). School mealtime socialising with peers could also simply reflect their socialising with peers more generally. ...
... Of particular interest, is the distinction between quantitative studies which use broad questionnaire measures and those which use close-up observational measures of mealtime interaction.The former include US studies showing correlation of mealtime frequency with a range of child and adolescent outcomes(Fiese & Schwartz, 2008). These are limited because they cannot show how or even whether participating in family mealtimesrather than other aspects of family experience -might account for findings(Musick & Meier, 2012;Offer, 2013;Pike & Leahy 2016). Pike and Leahy also argued that this research tends to neglect the fact that family mealtime interactions can be negative as well as positive and have damaging consequences for individuals involved. ...
Thesis
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Stress has been designated the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century” by the World Health Organization and negatively affects the quality of individuals’ lives by detracting most body systems. In today’s world, different methods are used to track and measure various types of stress. Among these techniques, experience sampling is a unique method for studying everyday stress, which can affect employees’ performance and even their health by threatening them emotionally and physically. The main advantage of experience sampling is that evaluating instantaneous experiences causes less memory bias than traditional retroactive measures. Further, it allows the exploration of temporal relationships in subjective experiences. The objective of this paper is to structure, analyze, and characterize the state of the art of available literature in the field of surveillance of work stress via the experience sampling method. We used the formal research methodology of systematic mapping to conduct a breadth-first review. We found 358 papers between 2010 and 2021 that are classified with respect to focus, research type, and contribution type. The resulting research landscape summarizes the opportunities and challenges of utilizing the experience sampling method on stress detection for practitioners and academics.
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Zusammenfassung. Der vorliegende Beitrag betrachtet Essstörungen unter entwicklungspsychologischer und entwicklungspsychopathologischer Perspektive. Körperbildstörungen, gestörtes Essverhalten und der Einfluss beider Eltern werden in den Kontext der normalen Mädchenentwicklung gestellt und insbesondere der Einfluss der Freundinnen und der neuen Medien herausgearbeitet. Bereits bei nicht essgestörten Jugendlichen fallen extremes Diätieren und ängstliche Körperkontrolle, aber auch elterliche problematische Kommunikationsstile und die oft schädlichen Interaktionen mit Gleichaltrigen auf. Die Grenze zu pathologischen Phänomenen ist entsprechend schwer zu ziehen. Hinzukommen hohe Komorbiditäten zwischen verschiedenen Essstörungen und mit internalisierenden und externalisierenden psychischen Störungen. Zeitgeschichtliche Phänomene wie die „holy anorexia“ der vergangenen Jahrhunderte und die gegenwärtig beobachtbare Zunahme an Essstörungen bei Jungen und der Wunsch, das Geschlecht zu verändern (Transgender) werden ebenso betrachtet wie kulturelle Einflüsse („Is fat beautiful?“). In diesem Zusammenhang wird auch der Frage nachgegangen, ob Essstörungen zugenommen haben und welchen Beitrag die neuen Medien dabei möglicherweise haben.
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Purpose: This study examines how household chaos and unmanaged parental stress are associated with and contribute to variance in markers of the home food environment (family meal frequency, perceived barriers to cooking, healthful home food availability). Obtaining a better understanding of these relationships could guide more effective family-based interventions to promote healthful home food environments. Methods: The analytic sample included 819 households with children in the population-based Project EAT-IV cohort with survey data from 2015 to 2016. Multiple linear regression was used to generate means and 95% confidence intervals of home food environment variables, and estimates for the contribution of household chaos (defined by frenetic activity, loud noises and disorder), and quartiles of unmanaged parental stress (ratio of perceived stress and ability to manage stress). Model fit was also examined. Results/findings: Both household chaos and quartiles of unmanaged parental stress were independently and inversely associated with family meal frequency (p's < 0.001) and positively associated with perceived mealtime preparation barriers (p's < 0.001). Unmanaged parental stress was also inversely associated with healthful home food availability (p = 0.004). Models including demographic characteristics, household chaos scores, and quartiles of unmanaged parental stress index showed significantly improved model fit for all outcomes compared to less comprehensive models. Among families with high chaos, those having 7 + family meals/week were significantly more likely to have lower mealtime preparation barrier scores, younger children and higher healthful home food availability scores than families eating together less often. Conclusions: Interventions to assist with parental management of stress and chaos within the home environment (e.g., establishing routines) may increase family meal frequency and the quality of children's home food environments.
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Divergent Realities: The Emotional Lives of Mothers, Fathers, and Adolescents. Reed Larson & Maryse H. Richards. New York: Basic Books. 1994. 256 pp. ISBN 0-465-01662-6. $26.00 cloth. Family researchers, and social scientists generally, are often frustrated by the limitations of the methods available to them. Questionnaires rely on people's notoriously unreliable memories. Laboratory studies always beg the question of how much they resemble real life. A fantasizing family researcher might ask, wouldn't it be nice to be there during family interactions, as they occur naturally, and ask people about their moods and perceptions of those interactions as they occur? Remarkably enough, this idea turns out to be more achievable than it might seem, and the results of its fruition have been presented in a new book on adolescents and their families by Reed Larson and Maryse Richards. The authors used a unique methodological approach known as the experience sampling method, or ESM, in which participants carried "beepers" around and were beeped at eight random times during the day between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. for 7 days. When beeped, family members would report in a booklet what they were doing, thinking, and feeling just before the beep, on rating scales as well as in their own words. The study included 55 two-parent, middle-class families living in suburban Chicago, all with an adolescent in fifth through eighth grade. All members of a particular family were beeped at the same time, so that more than one perspective was obtained when they were beeped while together. The result is what authors call "an emotional photo album of their family life, a set of snapshots of what one young adolescent and her parents go through in an average week" (p. 9). These snapshots are fascinating and revealing. Most striking is the disparity in moods and perceptions that family members often experience when together, and how oblivious they can be to one another's emotional realities. For example: Mom is shopping for clothes at the mall with her adolescent daughter, and reports thoroughly enjoying herself and thinking that her daughter is, too; at the same time, the daughter reports being bored and thinking about a prospective boyfriend. Family members often do not even agree about whether they are together; the wife cooking dinner in the kitchen reports being with her husband, who is watching TV; he reports watching TV, alone. Husbands and wives disagreed one-third of the time about whether or not they were together; mothers and children disagreed one-half of the time about this. …
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Amelia II is a complete R package for multiple imputation of missing data. The package implements a new expectation-maximization with bootstrapping algorithm that works faster, with larger numbers of variables, and is far easier to use, than various Markov chain Monte Carlo approaches, but gives essentially the same answers. The program also improves imputation models by allowing researchers to put Bayesian priors on individual cell values, thereby including a great deal of potentially valuable and extensive information. It also includes features to accurately impute cross-sectional datasets, individual time series, or sets of time series for different cross-sections. A full set of graphical diagnostics are also available. The program is easy to use, and the simplicity of the algorithm makes it far more robust; both a simple command line and extensive graphical user interface are included.
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This study examined the implications of family time for firstborn and secondborn adolescent offspring, mothers, and fathers in 192 dual-earner families, defining family time as time shared by the foursome in activities across 7 days. Data were gathered in daily telephone interviews. For firstborns, higher levels of family time at Time 1 predicted less involvement in risky behavior 2 years later, controlling for Time 1 risky behavior. Longitudinal analyses predicting depressive symptoms revealed family time X parent education interactions for firstborns, fathers, and mothers, suggesting that the implications of family time depended on social class. The pattern of results suggests that family time is protective when chosen by family members but not when it represents a default use of time.
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This paper uses American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data to describe the time use of teenagers ages 15–17, with a focus on activities that may affect teenagers’ well-being such as sleep, eating, schoolwork, and selected leisure activities. We find that teenagers with an employed mother spend less time on homework and computers, are less likely to eat with parents, but spend more time in supervised activities. Teenagers with a single mother spend more time in paid work, are less likely to eat dinner with their parent, and spend more time in unsupervised activities, but they also get more sleep. Adolescents with more educated mothers spend more time studying and on the computer, less time watching television, and are more likely to eat dinner with parents. Family income correlates positively with teenagers’ paid work, homework, computer use, and the likelihood of eating with parents, but is negatively associated with sleep. Family size is positively related to time spent in caregiving activities, sleep, and eating with parents, but is associated with less computer use.
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Objective To examine family meal patterns and associations with sociodemographic characteristics and dietary intake in adolescents. Design A population-based cross-sectional study design was employed. Adolescents completed the Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) survey and the Youth and Adolescent Food Frequency Questionnaire within their schools. Subjects/setting The study population included 4,746 middle and high school students from Minneapolis/St. Paul public schools with diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Statistical analyses Associations were examined using cross tabulations, log-linear modeling, and linear regressions. Results There was a wide distribution in the frequency of family meals during the previous week: never (14.0%), 1 or 2 times (19.1%), 3 to 6 times (40.1%), and 7 or more times (24.8%). Sociodemographic characteristics associated with more frequent family meals included gender (boys), school level (middle school), race (Asian American), mother's employment status (not employed), and socioeconomic status (high). Frequency of family meals was positively associated with intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, and calcium-rich foods and negatively associated with soft drink consumption. Positive associations were also seen between frequency of family meals and energy; protein (percentage of total calories); calcium; iron; folate; fiber; and vitamins A, C, E, and B-6. Conclusions Family meals appear to play an important role in promoting positive dietary intake among adolescents. Feasible ways to increase the frequency of family meals should be explored with adolescents and their families. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:317-322.
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Adolescents who share meals with their parents score better on a range of well-being indicators. Using three waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (N = 17,977), we assessed the causal nature of these associations and the extent to which they persist into adulthood. We examined links between family dinners and adolescent mental health, substance use, and delinquency at wave 1, accounting for detailed measures of the family environment to test whether family meals simply proxy for other family processes. As a more stringent test of causality, we estimated fixed effects models from waves 1 and 2, and we used wave 3 to explore persistence in the influence of family dinners. Associations between family dinners and adolescent well-being remained significant, net of controls, and some held up to stricter tests of causality. Beyond indirect benefits via earlier well-being, however, family dinners associations did not persist into adulthood.