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28-11-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 4/2018

Journal of Child and Family Studies 4/2018

Going Beyond Frequency: A Qualitative Study to Explore New Dimensions for the Measurement of Family Meals

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 4/2018
Margie R. Skeer, Kendrin R. Sonneville, Bhushan R. Deshpande, Matthew C. Goodridge, Sara C. Folta


The majority of studies on family meals only assess frequency. We conducted a qualitative study of family meals with parent and child dyads to explore different dimensions of family meals, beyond frequency, that may be important protective factors for youth risk- and weight-related outcomes to examine in quantitative studies. Participants were 37 children aged 6–16 and their parent/guardian (74 participants in total). We conducted semi-structured and open-ended interviews with parents and children separately. Participants were recruited at pediatric/adolescent waiting rooms at an academic medical center in Boston, MA, as well as through flyers placed around Boston and online via The data were analyzed and compiled by first coding key phrases into themes and then including additional themes as they arose from the data. Themes related to three major topic areas emerged: feelings about family meals, meal rules and rituals, and communication during meals. Parents and children generally enjoyed family meals, and indicated that discussions of daily life, as well as more difficult conversations, took place during meals. Rules were set in place by parents but generally not reported as strict by children, and when allowed, the use of technology often hindered family communication during meals. Ultimately, this qualitative study provided an in-depth understanding of candidate dimensions that would be useful in quantitative studies to begin to disentangle the mechanisms associated with reductions in youth risk- and weight-related outcomes.

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