the baby in the mirror

Around the table

Developmental psychologists like their laboratories and their experimental tasks, but they also recognise that many of the complexities of children’s development only reveal themselves amid the noise of everyday life. In their search for naturalistic contexts for their observations, those who study children’s minds have often seen the value of family mealtimes. Mealtimes follow pretty set scripts; they keep energetic toddlers in the same place for a few minutes at a time; and they involve all sorts of verbal and nonverbal communication. As well as using the family dining table as a context within which to observe children directly, psychologists have also studied the effects of exposure to these particularly important social routines.

The latest Social Policy Report Brief from the Society for Research in Child Development summarises some of these findings and calls for their wider dissemination. Eating together is linked to vocabulary growth and academic achievement in younger children, and is associated with lower rates of behaviour problems. There are benefits in terms of avoiding obesity and eating disorders. Teenagers who eat with the family five or more times a week are protected against the temptations of nicotine, marijuana and alcohol. Shared meals tend to be healthier, and teenagers who enjoy them get through more fruit and vegetables.

All this, when the average American family mealtime lasts about twenty minutes. For this important context for development, even a short exposure seems to make a big difference.

You can download the Brief here.

0 comments on “Around the table

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: