"Our" food versus "my" food. Investigating the relation between childhood shared food practices and adult prosocial behavior in Belgium

Appetite. 2015 Jan;84:54-60. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.09.022. Epub 2014 Sep 28.


This study focuses on the connection between prosocial behavior, defined as acting in ways that benefit others, and shared meals, defined as meals that consist of food(s) shared with others. In contrast to individual meals, where consumers eat their own food and perhaps take a sample of someone else's dish as a taste, shared meals are essentially about sharing all the food with all individuals. Consequently, these meals create situations where consumers are confronted with issues of fairness and respect. One should not be greedy and consume most of a dish; instead, rules of polite food sharing need to be obeyed. It is therefore proposed that those who have often engaged in shared meals during childhood will have a more prosocial personality, as compared to those who less often took part in shared meals during childhood. To test this hypothesis, data about frequency of shared meals during childhood and altruistic personality in early adulthood were collected using a cross-sectional survey in Belgium (n = 487). Results confirm that higher levels of shared meal consumption correspond to higher scores on the self-report altruism scale among students.

Keywords: Altruism; Family meals; Prosocial behavior; Shared meals.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Altruism*
  • Belgium
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eating
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Meals*
  • Personality*
  • Self Report
  • Students
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult