Family dinnertime studies are food for thought

Bryton, 4, Linda and Randy Hayward at their family dinner table.
Bryton, 4, Linda and Randy Hayward at their family dinner table. Luka Kauzlaric

FAMILIES are more likely to pull up a seat on the sofa rather than at the dinner table when it comes to consuming the last meal of the day, according to a UK study.

The Britain at Home study found only 18% of families ate around the dinner table, compared to families who ate in front of the TV.

The UK study found 60% of homeowners would eat dinner alone in front of the TV, while 59% of households had family members that ate dinner at different times.

Gladstone shiftworker Rob Jensen said it was common not to eat dinner with his housemates.

"I usually eat at the table when I'm on my own. I don't see the others because they are at work," Rob said.

An American study also found there was a similar trend in the US, with families spending less time together at the dinner table.

And research indicates that's not a good thing.

"One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens' lives is by having frequent family dinners," The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse's Professor Joseph Califano Jr said.

Dinner table fodder

  • 60% of homeowners eat dinner alone.
  • 18% of families eat at the dinner table.
  • 59% of people eat at different times to their housemates.
  • 32% of families eat dinner in less than 20 minutes.
  • In 2009, 26% of families ate dinner in less than 20 minutes.

Source: Britains at Home (2013)

Sharing a meal always a good excuse to catch up

THERE has always been a blanket rule at the Hayward household.

If you're eating dinner - it's at the table.

For Linda, her husband and two children, eating at the dinner table is the perfect excuse to catch-up with the family.

"I think dinner should always be eaten at the dinner table," Linda said.

"You don't even have to talk, if you don't want to.

"It's a great excuse to get the whole family together.

"Sometimes, we will have a picnic on the floor but that's on a rare occasion."

The Burua mother said her children often spoke about their day over the family dinner and asked their father about his day at work.

My four-year-old knows that he has to eat his food before he can leave the table.

Linda said she had also introduced the rule to encourage her kids to eat all of their dinner.

"My four-year-old knows that he has to eat his food before he can leave the table," she said.

There is only one exception to the rule for the busy mother.

"I eat on the lounge when nobody is home - just because I can," she said.

"I'm (the one) cleaning up afterwards!"

Topics:  dinner family gladstone parenting

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