Parenting style and family meals: cross-sectional and 5-year longitudinal associations

J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Jul;110(7):1036-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.04.011.


Background: Research on family meals in the past decade has shown a positive association between family meal frequency and adolescent healthy dietary intake. However, less is known about factors within the home environment, such as parenting style, that may be associated with family meal patterns.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to test cross-sectional and 5-year longitudinal associations between parenting styles (authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful) and the frequency of family meals among adolescents.

Study design: Data were from Project Eating Among Teens, a population-based study comprised of youth from diverse ethnic/racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Two cohorts of adolescents (middle school and high school) completed in-class surveys in 1999 (Time 1) and mailed surveys in 2004 (Time 2). Multiple linear regression models were used to predict mean frequency of family meals at Time 1 and Time 2 from adolescent report of parenting style (both mother and father) at Time 1. Cross-sectional analyses included both adolescent cohorts (n=4,746) and longitudinal analyses included only the younger cohort (n=806) because family meal frequency was not assessed in the older cohort at Time 2.

Results: Cross-sectional results for adolescent girls indicated a positive association between maternal and paternal authoritative parenting style and frequency of family meals. For adolescent boys, maternal authoritative parenting style was associated with more frequent family meals. Longitudinal results indicated that authoritative parenting style predicted higher frequency of family meals 5 years later, but only between opposite sex parent/adolescent dyads.

Conclusions: Future research should identify additional factors within the home environment that are associated with family meal frequency to develop effective interventions that result in increased family meals for youth. Also, future research should investigate the mealtime behaviors of authoritative parents and identify specific behaviors that dietetics practitioners and other health care providers could share with parents of adolescents to help them increase family meal frequency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Authoritarianism
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eating
  • Environment
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Permissiveness
  • Sex Distribution