Introduction: Numerous quantitative studies have examined the association between family meal frequency and child/adolescent weight and weight-related behaviors. However, limited qualitative research has been conducted to identify mealtime characteristics (e.g., child behavior during meals, rules/expectations, family dynamics) that occur during family meals that may explain why some families engage in frequent family meals and others do not. This is particularly important within racially/ethnically diverse households, as these demographic groups are at higher risk for weight-related problems. The current study aimed to identify similarities and differences in mealtime characteristics between households that have frequent and infrequent family meals within a low-income and minority population. Methods: This qualitative study included 118 parents who participated in Family Meals, LIVE!, a mixed-methods, cross-sectional study. Parents (90% female; mean age = 35) were racially/ethnically diverse (62% African American, 19% White, 4% Native American, 4% Asian, 11% Mixed/Other) and from low-income (73% < $35,000/yr.) households. Data were analyzed using inductive content analysis. Results: Results indicated some similar mealtime characteristics (i.e., picky eating, involving family members in meal preparation) between households having frequent and infrequent family meals. Additionally, several differences in mealtime characteristics were identified between households having frequent (i.e., importance of family meals, flexibility in the definition of family meals, family meal rules, no pressure-to-eat feeding practices) versus infrequent family meals (i.e., pressure-to-eat parent feeding practices, family meals are dinner meals only, and difficult meal time behaviors). Discussion: Study findings may be useful for developing intervention targets for low-income and racially/ethnically diverse households so more families can benefit from the protective nature of family meals.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research is supported by grant number R21DK091619 from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease . Content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease or the National Institutes of Health.
- Childhood obesity
- Family meals
- Minority households