Family Mealtime Matters

Quality family interactions positively impact children with asthma

(RxWiki News) The 4:00 p.m. phone call from your child:  "Mom, what's for dinner?" Upon answering, the child either grimaces or delights, but they almost always show up. Researchers have identified a link between the health of children with asthma and the quality of family interactions at mealtime.

Instead of analyzing the frequency of eating with family, this new study analyzed how the quality of social interaction during mealtime affected children's health.

"Positive mealtimes enrich your family."

Barbara H. Fiese, professor of human and community development and director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois, and leader of the study, reported that mealtimes as a regular event for families with young children provide an easy and accessible opportunity to improve the health of children with asthma.

Fiese thinks the mealtimes also provide an optimal setting for health initiatives and prevention efforts. Mealtimes are as straightforward and accessible a way to improve the health and wellbeing of children with asthma.

Researchers from the University of Illinois, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, found the quality of family interactions during mealtime was directly related to the health of the asthmatic child, including lung function, symptoms of asthma, and the degree to which asthma interfered with a child's daily life.

More specifically, families that spent mealtimes talking about the day's events, showing a sincere interest in each other's activities, and without the distractions of electronics had children with better health.

Conversely, the researchers found that families with more disruptions during mealtime - such as from cell phones or TV - were more likely to have asthmatic children with poorer health.

Such findings support other studies, which have shown that watching television, or time spent in front of any screen, contributes to a variety of health risks.

In Depth

  • This study included researchers from the University of Illinois, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse
  • The researchers observed 200 families with children from 5 to 12 years of age who had persistent asthma, a form of asthma that requires more frequent care and regular routines compared to other types of asthma
  • The family meals lasted an average of only 18 minutes
Review Date: 
April 19, 2011