Why children grow up unruly if Dad isn’t home for dinner – even if Mum is there for every meal
- Research also found that fathers are likely to skip family meals if they are unhappy at work
Eating together as a family is not only good for bonding, it can also help with discipline.
A study shows that fathers who don’t come home for dinner with their families may end up with more misbehaving children.
Researchers spent time with more than 1,400 married couples with two-year-old children, calculating how many dinners the child ate per week with their mother and also with their father.
They visited the families again when each child was four or five years old and asked the parents questions about their behavior.
The study found that children who ate less often with their fathers as toddlers behaved worse.
Research has shown that children behaved worse if they ate less often with their father as toddlers, even if they ate with their mother every day.
This was the case even when the children ate dinner with their mother every day. No matter how often women ate dinner with their child, their behavior was worse when their father ate with them less often.
Sehyun Ju of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, who led the study, said: ‘During family meals, children learn by watching adults share food, interact with each other, have conversations and make eye contact.
‘This is a unique daily experience that can help them learn to communicate and behave.
“These results suggest that it is important to have the whole family around the table because fathers, like mothers, bring important and unique qualities.”
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that just one meal per week where a mother or father was missing from the dinner table was linked to worse behavior in childhood.
When they examined the reasons why parents skip meals, researchers found that fathers who were dissatisfied with their job and financial situation were less likely to eat with their families. This was regardless of whether they worked long hours, suggesting they lack the motivation.
According to the study, mothers who were unhappy at work were less likely to avoid family meals, while the opposite was true for fathers who were dissatisfied with their jobs.
However, mothers who were unhappy at work were less likely to avoid family dinners.
The study authors say: ‘It is possible that parents who can maintain family meal routines despite their work-related stress have better boundaries between work and family and a greater ability to regulate stress.’
Senior author Dr Karen Kramer said: ‘Dinnertime for young children is typically around five or six o’clock, but expecting parents to be home early in the day does not match being an ideal worker.
“Policy initiatives to provide a work environment and community support that facilitate family meals would be important.”