Chicken or egg: Do family dinners lead to health or vice versa?

No class warfare at breakfast, please!
No class warfare at breakfast, please!

We’ve heard for a long time that families that eat dinner together experience all sorts of benefits: better physical and mental health, better diet, more satisfaction. According to today’s Wall Street Journal (No Time for Family Dinner? Try Breakfast), the same benefits may be available to families that eat breakfast together instead.

But deep down in the article we find the dirty little secret about the relationship of family mealtimes with all those wonderful things:

Children’s suppertime leg up on life may have more to do with the types of families that prioritize regular, happy time together, not the evening meal, itself, says Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University and co-author of two large-scale studies that question how family dinner affects teenage well-being.

Families with higher incomes, two parents, one parent who doesn’t work and strong family bonds have family dinner more often than families without those characteristics, according to the studies. “When we accounted for that, the link between family dinner and outcomes is much weaker than previously reported,” Ms. Musick says.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

It bothers me when the Journal’s op-ed page uses the term “class warfare” to attack those who call for making income taxation more progressive. The truth is that we don’t live in an equal opportunity society. Those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds often lose out due to lack of opportunity, not a deficit of virtue.


photo credit: Robby Ryke via photopin cc

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

November 19, 2014

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