CHICAGO -- Volumes have been written and spoken about how to keep teenagers out of trouble. But the answer, according to a study presented at the American Psychological Association's (APA) 105th Annual Convention, may be as simple as eating meals together as a family more often.
Psychologists Blake Sperry Bowden, Ph.D., from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Jennie M Zeisz, Ph.D., from DePaul University categorized 527 teenagers as either well-adjusted or not well-adjusted and then looked at the number of times per week that they ate dinner together with their families at home. The adjusted teens -- who were less likely to do drugs, less likely to be depressed, more motivated at school and had better peer relationships -- ate with their families an average of five days a week compared to the nonadjusted teens who only ate with their families three days a week.
Clearly family mealtimes are strongly related to adjustment, but exactly what aspect of the event -- the sharing, the stories teens tell about their day or hear from others in the family -- helps prevent adjustment problems for them hasn't been pinpointed. But, say the authors, family mealtimes, it would appear, play an important role in helping teens deal with the pressures of adolescence.
Presentation: "Supper's On! Adolescent Adjustment and Frequency of Family Mealtimes" by Blake Sperry Bowden, Ph.D., Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Jennie M. Zeisz, Ph.D., DePaul University. Session 2220, August 16, 1997, Sheraton Chicago and Towers, River Exhibition Hall (E-5).
(Full text available from the APA Public Affairs Office.)
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