The study objectives were to (1) increase our knowledge about family meal patterns of adolescents, (2) identify factors that adolescents perceive as reasons for not eating meals with their family, and (3) assess adolescents' perceptions on whether they eat more healthful foods at family meals than in other eating situations. Focus group discussions were conducted with 141 adolescents from 7th and 10th grade health education classes from urban public junior and senior high schools in Minnesota. Twenty-one focus groups were audio-taped, tapes were transcribed verbatim, transcripts were reviewed for emerging themes, and themes were coded using content analysis procedures. For some adolescents, family meals were part of their daily routine, whereas for others, family meals were not the norm. Diversity also existed with regard to the context of family meals, such as activities during meals and settings for meals. Major reasons for not having meals as a family included parent and teen schedules, teen desire for autonomy, dissatisfaction with family relations, and dislike of food served at family meals. Most of the adolescents thought that they would eat more healthful foods it they ate more often with their families. Key factors that appeared to influence whether participation in family meals would lead to a more healthful diet included food availability at meals, rules around mealtimes, and health-related attitudes of family members. There is great diversity in both the quantity and quality of meals in the families of adolescents. Health care providers working with youth and their families should inquire about family meals and encourage the practice of eating with family members, taking into account what is feasible for a particular family.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
T h ~ study was supported by grant 1140 MC 00125 from the Maternal and Child Hedlth Bureau (T~tleVS, ocial Securlty Act), Health I\esourcrs and Services Adnlin-istrat~onI,l epartrnent of Health and Human Servrcc~. Address for correspondence: Illanne Neumark-Szta~ner. I'h.D.. M.I?H.. R.D.. Dlvi-sion of Epidemiology, School of Publlc Health, Unlvers~tyo f Minnesota, 1300 South Srcond Street, Sultt. 300, Minneapolis, M N 55454;TeI: (612) 624-0880; Fax: (612) 624-0315; E - ~ I ~ INIcu: rnark@ep~vax.ep~.un~n.edu. 02000 SOCIETY FOR NUTKITION EDUCATION