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Having regular family meals boosts children’s health and social skills, according to a Canadian study.
Researchers from the University of Montreal looked into previous data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, which observed 1,492 children born in 1997 and 1998, starting from when they were five months old. Parents began reporting on the frequency of their family meals when the children were six years old.
Findings show that by age 10, children who had meals with their families on a regular basis starting age six were physically and mentally healthier and more socially adept compared to those who did not.
For instance, children who engaged in regular family meals were found to have lower soda consumption. In addition, they were not prone to having behavioral problems.
Linda Pagani, one of the researchers, pointed out that children gain opportunities for direct social interaction and discourse on social issues and daily concerns in an environment that they consider familiar and safe.
The researchers asserted that they also considered some factors such as the children’s temperament and cognitive abilities to eliminate pre-existing components that may affect the study’s results.
Aside from better health and social skills, another benefit of family meals on children is language development.
In a study published in the journal New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, researchers found that family mealtime conversations augment children’s vocabulary. Based on the results, children usually acquire around 1,000 rare words during mealtimes, as opposed to the 143 words they acquire during storytelling sessions with parents.