Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine both cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between frequency of family dinner and overweight status in a large sample of 9- to 14-year-old children.
Research methods and procedures: We studied a cohort of 7784 girls and 6647 boys, 9 to 14 years of age at baseline in 1996, participating in the Growing Up Today Study. From annual mailed surveys, we calculated BMI from self-reported height and weight and assessed frequency of family dinner over the previous year. We defined "overweight" as age- and sex-specific BMI >85th percentile. We performed multiple logistic regression analyses; the longitudinal analyses assessed the association of previous year family dinner consumption with 1-year incidence of becoming overweight, using prospective data from 1996 through 1999.
Results: At baseline in 1996, 16% of participants had family dinner "never or some days," 40% on "most days," and 44% "every day." Across these categories, overweight prevalence for girls was 19.4%, 16.6%, and 16.7% and for boys was 24.6%, 23.3%, and 22.7%, respectively. In cross-sectional analyses, adjusting for potential confounders, the odds of being overweight was 0.85 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.76, 0.96] among children who ate family dinner on "most days" or "every day" compared with those who ate family dinner "never or some days." In longitudinal multivariate models, the odds ratios between previous year frequency of eating family dinner and 1-year incidence of becoming overweight were 0.95 (95% CI: 0.78, 1.16) and 1.04 (95% CI: 0.85, 1.27) for children who ate family dinner on "most days" and "every day," respectively, compared with those who ate family dinner "never or some days."
Discussion: The frequency of eating family dinner was inversely associated with overweight prevalence at baseline but not with likelihood of becoming overweight in longitudinal analyses.