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The intergenerational transmission of family meal practices: a mixed-methods study of parents of young children

  • Katie A Loth (a1), Marc James A Uy (a1), Megan R Winkler (a2), Dianne Neumark-Sztainer (a2), Jennifer Orlet Fisher (a3) and Jerica M Berge (a1)...

Abstract

Objective

The current mixed-methods study explored qualitative accounts of prior childhood experiences and current contextual factors around family meals across three quantitatively informed categories of family meal frequency patterns from adolescence to parenthood: (i) ‘maintainers’ of family meals across generations; (ii) ‘starters’ of family meals in the next generation; and (iii) ‘inconsistent’ family meal patterns across generations.

Design

Quantitative survey data collected as part of the first (1998–1999) and fourth (2015–2016) waves of the longitudinal Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Adolescents and Young Adults) study and qualitative interviews conducted with a subset (n 40) of Project EAT parent participants in 2016–2017.

Setting

Surveys were completed in school (Wave 1) and online (Wave 4); qualitative interviews were completed in-person or over the telephone.

Participants

Parents of children of pre-school age (n 40) who had also completed Project EAT surveys at Wave 1 and Wave 4.

Results

Findings revealed salient variation within each overarching theme around family meal influences (‘early childhood experiences’, ‘influence of partner’, ‘household skills’ and ‘family priorities’) across the three intergenerational family meal patterns, in which ‘maintainers’ had numerous influences that supported the practice of family meals; ‘starters’ experienced some supports and some challenges; and ‘inconsistents’ experienced many barriers to making family meals a regular practice.

Conclusions

Family meal interventions should address differences in cooking and planning skills, aim to reach all adults in the home, and seek to help parents who did not eat family meals as a child develop an understanding of how and why they might start this tradition with their family.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Email kloth@umn.edu

References

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