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Health Psychol. 2008 Mar;27(2S):S109-17. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.27.2(Suppl.).S109.

What mediates the relationship between family meals and adolescent health issues.

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Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115-5000, USA.



To determine whether the frequency of family meals in childhood is associated with positive health outcomes in adolescence through the mediating links of increased family cohesion and positive coping skills.


Data were obtained from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study (NGHS), a 10-year longitudinal study of 2,379 black and white girls assessed annually from ages 9-19. The mediational analysis framework of H. C. Kraemer and colleagues (2001) was used to test the hypothesis that the frequency of family meals in childhood (Study Years 1 and 3) would be related to health outcomes (Study Year 10) through the mediating links of family cohesion and coping skills (Study Years 7/8), after adjusting for baseline (Year 1) demographics as well as previous levels of the outcome variables (Years 5/6).


Several measures of adolescent health variables were included as outcome measures. These included the Perceived Stress Scale, three Eating Disorders Inventory subscales (drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, and bulimia), number of days of alcohol and tobacco consumption, and engaging in extreme weight control behaviors (e.g., self-induced vomiting).


More frequent family meals in the first 3 study years predicted greater family cohesion and problem- and emotion-focused coping in Years 7 and 8. Family cohesion mediated family meals and risk of smoking in Year 10. Problem-focused coping mediated family meals and both stress and disordered eating-related attitudes and behaviors in Year 10.


Eating together as a family during childhood may have multiple benefits in later years.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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