Early Childhood

Family Mealtimes Don’t Predict Success in School, Study States

By Julie Blair — July 24, 2013 1 min read

There is hardly any correlation between a family sharing meals together and children’s academic performance and behavior in school, a national study has found, debunking the long-held belief that the family dinner hour is nothing short of a magical means to ensure success in those areas.

The habits of some 21,400 kindergarteners and their families were measured along with school performance as they proceeded from their early years through 8th grade, states a study published by Daniel P. Miller, Jane Waldfogel and Wen-Jui Han in the November/December 2012 issue of the journal Child Development, which is now online.

The "...effects of family meals on child academics and behavioral outcomes were either small or effectively zero,” the study states.

That said, researchers found that many more families were actually eating together than previously reported.

For example, 70 percent of children were eating five, six, or seven dinners with their families each week by 8th grade, the study states. In addition, 34 percent were eating as many breakfasts together.

In contrast, previous research on the subject had reported that one-third of teens and their families ate two or fewer meals together in one week.

The contrast in the numbers and their effect can likely be explained by the fact that the study in Child Development took into account a larger number of children and that the numbers were more factual, it stated.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.