Family Meal Frequency and Child Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes

Daniel P. Miller, Boston University
Wen-Jui Han, Columbia University

Previous research has linked the frequency that a family eats together with a number of positive child outcomes like decreased substance use (Eisenberg et al., 2008), better diet quality (Larson et al., 2007), and lower incidence of problem behaviors (Sen, 2006). However, previous research has often relied upon cross-sectional data or insufficient methods to control for bias. This study builds upon previous work by using longitudinal data and relatively rich information on family meal frequency from the ECLS-K dataset to examine how the frequency that a child eats breakfasts and dinners with her family is associated with cognitive performance (reading, math, and science scores) and internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Using child fixed effects models to control for bias from unobserved sources, results indicate that there is little relationship between either breakfast or dinner frequency and any of the outcomes, suggesting that results of previous studies may have been biased.

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Presented in Poster Session 1