Teens Benefit When Families Eat Together – Not Just At Thanksgiving

Washington, DC— As families gather around the Thanksgiving table, they may be doing more good than they realize. Research has found that, like other forms of parental involvement, there is a link between frequent family dinners and positive teen outcomes. Teens who eat regularly with their family are less likely than other teens to get into fights, think about suicide, smoke, drink or use drugs. They are also likely to do better in school and initiate sexual activity later than teens who do not have regular meals with their families. Are families gathering for meals together? 


The Child Trends DataBank, the nation’s largest online source of trends and indicators on children and youth, reports that in 2003, 42 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 ate a family meal six to seven days a week. Twenty-seven (27) percent did so four to five days a week, and 31 percent ate meals with their family three or fewer days a week.


The numbers are higher for children ages 6 to 11. Among this age group, 56 percent ate a meal as a family six to seven days a week, 25 percent did so 4 to 5 days a week, and 20 percent ate a family meal three days a week or less.


Foreign-born, Hispanic, and poor teens are more likely than other teens to eat meals with their families.


  • Foreign-born teens are more likely than native-born teens with native-born parents to eat meals together six to seven times a week – 62 percent versus 40 percent, respectively.
  • Hispanic adolescents and children ages 12 to 17 and 6 to 11 are more likely than both non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic blacks to eat meals together six or seven days a week.
  • 55 percent of teens living in poor households ate meals six to seven days a week together, compared with 44 percent of those living at 100 to 200 percent above the poverty level and 37 percent of those living at 200 percent or more above the poverty level.


Most families try to spend the holidays together, but eating together on a regular basis may have a lasting positive effect on their teens’ behavior. 


Read the full DataBank indicator:  http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org.


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About Child Trends – Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center serving those dedicated to creating better lives for children and youth. For more information on Child Trends, click on www.childtrends.org.