Eating Dinner Together is No Big Deal

A Context in Which to Connect

Eating Dinner Together is No Big Deal

The family that eats together, stays together. Or not. Turns out, the importance of communing together over food may have been overstated. 

If you get stressed about getting all of your family members' respective backsides adhered to the dinner table at the same time, fret not. Your kids won't necessarily become depressed delinquents. Eating together may not be such a deal breaker, according to a recent Cornell University study published in this month’s Journal of Marriage and Family. 

Having grilled 18,000 U.S. teens from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, researchers found that while gathering around the table at dinner may offer a good chance to regroup, it's not so important in the long run. 

“We are probably overstating quite a bit what would happen if a family just started having dinner together, and nothing else changed about their behaviour,” says lead author of the study, Dr. Kelly Musick.

The crucial thing is for families to have some bonding time, be it in a context that involves eating or some other activity. 

“Dinner tends to be a time where through food you can create a lot of comfort,” Dr. Musick says. But “if what matters is finding a context where you can connect with your kids and build some routine and ritual in which people feel comfortable, you could probably do it some other way. But in this harried world, it would have to be deliberate.”

It just so happens that when people are eating, they tend to be unplugged and available for face time. 

Is dinner the ideal time for bonding, or is it too chaotic in your household?