Why children grow up unruly if Dad isn't home for dinner

Why children grow up unruly if Dad isn’t home for dinner – even if Mum is there for every meal

  • Study also found that fathers were likely to miss family meals if unhappy at work

Eating together as a family isn’t just good for bonding – it could also help with discipline.

For fathers who do not make it home for dinner with their families could end up with more badly behaved children, a study says.

Researchers spent time with more than 1,400 married couples with two-year-old children, calculating how many dinners a week the child ate with their mother and also their father.

They revisited the families when each child was four or five years old and asked the parents questions about their behaviour.

The study found that children who had eaten dinner with their father less often as toddlers grew up to be more poorly behaved.

A study has found that children behaved worse if they had eaten dinner with their father less often as toddlers, even if they ate with their mother every day

That was the case even if the children ate dinner with their mother every day. Regardless of how often women ate evening meals with their child, their behaviour was worse if their father ate dinner with them less often.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Sehyun Ju, who led the study, said: ‘During family meals, children learn from watching adults share food, interact with each other, hold conversations and make eye contact.

‘This is a unique daily experience which may help them learn how to communicate and behave.

‘These results suggest having the whole family around the table is important, because fathers bring important and unique qualities, as well as mothers.’

The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found just one meal a week where a father or mother was missing from the dinner table was linked to worsened childhood behaviour.

When they examined the reasons why parents miss mealtimes, researchers found fathers who were dissatisfied with their work and financial situation ate dinner with their family less often. This was regardless of whether they worked long hours, suggesting they lacked the motivation.

According to the research, mothers who were unhappy at work were less likely to avoid eating with the family, while the opposite was true for fathers dissatisfied with their job

However mothers who were unhappy at work were less likely to avoid family dinner times.

The study authors state: ‘It is possible that parents who are able to maintain family mealtime routines despite their work-related stress may have better work-family boundaries and greater stress regulatory capacity.’

Senior author Dr Karen Kramer said: ‘Dinner time for young kids is typically around five or six o’clock, but the expectation that parents are home early in the day doesn’t align with being an ideal worker.

‘Policy initiatives to help provide a work environment and community support that facilitate family mealtimes would be important.’

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