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pie chart: CSHCN who share meals with family at least 4 days per week pie chart: Non-CSHCN who share meals with family at least 4 days per week bar graph: children who share meals with family at least 4 days per week by age and CSHCN status

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Family Meals

Eating together as a family can promote family bonding as well as good nutrition and eating habits.1 In addition, eating meals as a family has been shown to be associated with long-term benefits for children, including less substance use, better school performance, and reduced mental health symptoms.2

CSHCN and non-CSHCN are about equally likely to eat with their families at least 4 days per week; in both groups, more than three-quarters of children did so. Among CSHCN, the proportion who eat a meal with their families at least 4 times a week ranged across states from 67.9 percent to 86.3 percent.

The percentage of children who share meals with their families is lower among older children. Among the youngest children (aged 0-5 years), over 80 percent share meals with their families at least 4 days a week; among adolescents, just over two-thirds of children (about 69 percent) did so. This pattern was evident among both CSHCN and non-CSHCN.

1 Gillman, M. W., Rifas-Shiman, S. L., Frazier, A. L., Rockett, H. R. H., Camargo, Jr., C. A., Field, A. E., Berkey, C. S., & Colditz, G. A. Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Archives of Family Medicine. 2000;9:235–240.

2 Newmark-Sztainer, D. et al. Family Meal Patterns: Associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2003;103(3).


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