In 2014, 63 percent of fathers who lived at home with a child ages 0 to 18 reported eating dinner with their child every day; an additional 27 percent reported doing the same at least several times a week. Only 8 percent of these fathers reported sharing dinner about once a week, less than once a week, or never.
These numbers were understandably lower among fathers who did not live at home with their children; however, 29 percent of nonresident fathers still reported eating dinner with their child several times a week, and 17 percent reported eating dinner together about once a week. Among the remaining categories for nonresident fathers, 23 percent reported never eating dinner with their child, 26 percent reported eating dinner together less than once a week, and 4 percent reported eating dinner together every day.
Positive involvement from fathers is linked to many benefits for children, including better self-esteem, lower levels of depression, and greater academic success. This involvement can include a range of behaviors. Eating meals together (most often dinner) provides a time and place for fathers (and indeed, all parents) to practice these positive parenting behaviors—and eating together is itself linked to a range of benefits for children. To maximize the benefits of eating together, and of paternal involvement, parents can make one simple meal to minimize prep time and maximize together time, recruit kids to help them cook, and make sure that meal times work for everyone’s schedules. When schedules and other constraints make it difficult for a family to have dinner together during the week, breakfasts together on the weekend are a great idea, too.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R03HD090277. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.