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Eating together, family structure and risk behaviour

Family structure is associated with a range of adolescent risk behaviours, with those living in both parent families generally faring best. A recent study described the association between family structure and adolescent risk behaviours and assessed the role of the family meal. Data from the 2006 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children survey were modelled for six risk behaviour outcomes. Significantly more children from ‘both parent’ families ate a family meal every day and fewer‘hardly ever or never’ did. Family structure was associated with boys’ and girls’ smoking, drinking, cannabis use and having sex and with girls’ fighting. Frequency of eating a family meal was associated with a reduced likelihood of all risk behaviours among
girls and all but fighting and having sex among boys. Eating a family meal regularly nullified the association between family structure and drinking alcohol for boys and girls and cannabis use for boys and reduced the effect size of alternative family structures on boys having sex and smoking. The family meal, associated with a reduced likelihood of many adolescent risk behaviours, reduces or eliminates the association with family structure and may therefore help to overcome inequalities in adolescent risk behaviours.
Source: Adolescent risk behaviours and mealtime routines: does family meal frequency alter the association between family structure and risk behaviour? Kate A. Levin, Joanna Kirby and Candace Currie. Health Educ. Res. (2011) doi: 10.1093/her/ cyr084. First published online: September 7, 2011

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