Harvard Study…. spells s.u.c.c.e.s.s!


I believe in the importance of ‘gathering around the table’.  I want to share some incredibly
important information from the very brightest minds in education today. Any one of
these marvelous side benefits would be enough, but when you bundle them together…gathering
around the table with your children is positively….PRICELESS!!!

Gathering around the table spells  S.U.C.C.E.S.S

S = Smarter Children:

• Improved vocabularies and reading skills

  • A study by Dr. Catherine Snow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education followed 65 families over 15 years, looking at how mealtime conversations play a critical role in language acquisition in young children. The conversations that occur around the family table teach children more vocabulary and forms of discourse than they learn when you read to them. Improved vocabularies lead to better readers. Better readers do better in all school subjects.

• Improved achievement test scores

  • A University of Illinois study of 120 boys and girls age 7 – 11 found that children who did well in school and on achievement tests were those who generally spent large amounts of time eating meals with their families.

• Greater academic achievement

  • A Reader’s Digest survey of more than 2,000 high-school seniors compared academic achievement with family characteristics.

  • Eating meals with their family was a stronger predictor of academic success than whether they lived with one or both parents. (Share that with families who may not have money or education or a spouse, but do have it in their
    power to eat with their kids!)

• Higher grades

  • Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has found a striking relationship between frequency of family meals and grades.

  • In 2003, the percent of teens who got A’s was 20% of those who ate with their families 5 or more times per week compared to only 12% of those who ate with their families 2 or less times per week.      

U = Unlikely to smoke, drink, or take drugs:

• In a research project coordinated by Dr. Blake Bowden of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

  • 527 teenagers were studied to determine what family and lifestyle characteristics were related to good mental health and adjustment. He found that kids who ate dinner with their families at least five times per week were the least likely to take drugs, feel depressed or get into trouble.

  • They were also less likely to drink regularly underage, or get addicted to drugs.

• According to CASA surveys:

  • Teens who eat dinner with their parents twice a week or less are four times more likely to smoke cigarettes, three times more likely to smoke marijuana, and nearly twice as likely to drink as those who eat dinner with their parents six or seven times a week.

  • Teens who eat frequent family dinners are also less likely than other teens to have sex at young ages and get into fights;

  • Teens who eat frequent family meals  are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide; and do better in school. This is true regardless of a teen’s gender, family structure, or family socioeconomic level.

  • Teens who have frequent family dinners are more likely to be emotionally content, work hard at school, and have positive peer relationships, not to mention healthier eating habits.

C = Courteous and Conversational:

• Family meals are a natural training ground for learning:

Social Skills
How to have pleasant conversations

• It’s at the family table that we learn to:

Learn to behave
To take turns
Be polite
Not to interrupt
How to share
How to entertain guests

Good lessons for success in life!

C = Connected to family:

  • According to CASA surveys, teens who have frequent family dinners are more likely to be emotionally content, work hard at school, and have positive peer relationships.

  • A study by the Kraft Company found that American families who eat together are happier in many aspects of their lives than those who don’t.

  • Children and teens who eat family meals together experience improved family communication, have stronger family ties and a greater sense of identity and belonging.

E = Eating better:

  • Dianne Neumark-Sztainer and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota, published the results of the EAT study (which stands for eating among teens) in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Their findings showed a dramatic relationship between family meal patterns and dietary intake in adolescents. Their study involved nearly 5,000 middle and high school students of diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

  • They found that family meals were associated with improved intakes of fruits, vegetables, grains, calcium-rich foods, protein, iron, fiber, and vitamins A, C, E, B-6 and foliate. Family meals were associated with a lower intake of soft-drinks and snack foods.

  • The Project EAT survey also found that girls who ate more frequent family meals exhibited less disordered eating including dieting behaviors, extreme weight control behaviors, binge eating, and chronic dieting.

• Family meals may help prevent childhood overweight for a variety of reasons:

  • Children feel secure that they will be fed; regular meals prevent grazing and promote coming to
    the table hungry but not “starving.”

  • Parents can role model healthy eating behaviors and a healthy relationship with food and eating.

  • Family meals promote a sense of belonging and lower the risk for loneliness-induced eating for comfort.

S = Sharing food and conversation at meals

S = Strengthens families!!

Other important studies that I love, show that teens are:

  • More likely to claim that their parents as friends and they know their parents are proud of them and less likely to report tension among family members. Big benefit.

  • And when asked which adult they would confide in over a serious problem, children who have frequent family dinners typically say they’d go to a parent.

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  1. Robin says

    I believe gathering around the table is important because it keeps people connected in our busy high tech world.

  2. Kelly Knutson says

    I’ll be honest, family meal time at our house is almost non-existent. We have tried multiple times to make it a point to sit down at the table for a meal and it usually only lasts a couple days. After reading this article, I am definitely going to try harder to have a family meal at least once a day. It might only be with one parent (because of work schedules), but that’s better than our current meal time!

  3. Cindy Stewart says

    we need to get back to traditional family values of old and maybe we can save our future of our kids, family, and country!

  4. Kayla says

    It really is so important to strengthen families! And dinner time is one of the best opportunities to do that.

  5. Sherry L says

    I believe that people that eat around the table have a better sense of family and connection. It is a place where we find out what went on in each others lives during the day. I think better nutrition is provided this way also because we are sitting down to a better quality dinner and not eating junk food. If you look at history, food has always been celebrated at the family table, communal gatherings and holiday celebrations. It is an important part of life and connection for everyone.

  6. McKenzie Long says

    I think a return to the table is important because it is what brings families together at the end of the day. Having dinner together allows everyone to tell about their day, their accomplishments, their struggles, their feelings. It’s a way to reconnect and feel loved, validated and appreciated by the people closest to you. I will always cherish my family dinner time and the memories I’ve made from that special time! =) Love this concept.

  7. Kelsey B says

    I am a huge believer in the power of eating around the table as a family! And I really hope to win this book! I’m currently a new wife, with plans to have a large family, and I graduate from nursing school next week!

    In our current society, we have so much to distract us! Between technology and our list of things to do, sometimes it takes an effort to actually sit around a table to eat. However, the benefits are numerous! Two important ones in my life are: 1)It promotes stronger relationships with your loved ones by facilitating conversation and 2) It makes you more aware that you are eating, what you are eating, and how much you are eating. Obesity has become a large problem for us in America, but by minimizing distractions as you eat, your eyes actually SEE what’s going in and transmits those messages to your stomach so you feel full.

    Thanks all!!

  8. Andria says

    I believe a return to the table is important because families today are struggling so much with drugs, unhealthy eating patterns and not enough love and support from each other.

  9. Lara Seavey says

    This is an encouraging study. I will definitely be striving for more family gatherings, no matter how busy we are!

  10. L says

    I believe it brings families closer together to have meals together and allows us to discuss things that otherwise wouldn’t be discussed.

  11. Wendy says

    What an interesting and eye opening article. Thanks for sharing such valuable information!!!!!!

  12. Kim Button says

    I agree with everything stated in the Harvard study and have actually believed and shared it for decades; my grandparents encouraged eating together as a family so then my parents continued as did my husband and I with our 5 sons, and now our 16 grandchildren are doing it. It’s so important and yet so simple. It’s great to see a new commitment to a basic fundamental that keeps families together, builds stronger families, etc…. Thanks for sharing! Love your site!

  13. Abby K says

    I believe that its awesome to spend time around the table eating cause you don’t always get to spend family time during the day. I think it helps bring the family closer together too.

  14. says

    I think more meals around the table is a good way for families to connect, even if only for 30 minutes, to talk about their day. This is such a busy world we live in.

  15. Katie says

    Mealtimes together is important for our family because since my niece and nephew have joined us (they never had regular mealtimes with family before) – they CRAVE meals together. It’s better for us to bond together instead of the not-so-great disciplining times that happen so often as they get to know all the house rules etc.

  16. Lindy says

    I absolutely LOVE family time around the table as I believe it strengthens the family. It is valuable time spent together as a family and will endure many memories to come.

  17. Emily says

    I just recently began having dinner at our Kitchen table. I have two amazing children (an almost 2 year old, and a 3 month old), and my husband and I wanted to be able to connect – both ourselves, as well as with our children – during family time. We started eating dinner together as a family 4 weeks ago, and it has become such an amazing treat each evening! We feel so much closer as a family, and now there is no TV, phone, or other distractions keeping us from having fun, open communication!

  18. says

    i feel it is important to gather at the table daily if possible to share our day, good or bad, this keeps us connected and always updated as to what is going on in each others lives. we also gather as a complete family at least twice a year, usually on holidays, thanks, i love your message

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