What’s Actually on the Menu? – “Power at the Table: Family Meals and Family Fights”

The ideal of the “happy family meal” has been created along with a stigma for anyone who doesn’t fit this 1950’s picturesque mold, when in actuality, family meals don’t play that big of a component in bringing families together. This conclusion was come to by the author after conducting many interviews and studies in the home, eventually finding a variety of factors such as power struggles between family members and gender role issues that are often brought to the dinner table.

Food is looked at in many different ways, but it is rare to find research on the actual value of eating at the dinner table. The article made a good point when looking back in history at many different cultures’ practices of eating, and found that “fast food” and individual eating could be considered traditional back then. It was only recently that society has made this unrealistic standard for ourselves of sitting at the dinner table as one big happy family. I feel in some way this can be looked at as either setting ourselves up for failure or trying to fix something that isn’t broken. As the article highlighted, our lives consist of busy schedules and things that we can’t get around which prevent us from meeting this expectation.

The article made a point to feature research that has been done on family dining, including a survey sponsored by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. The survey made a correlation between frequent family dining and lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, and illegal drug abuse. They compared teens who had frequent dinners with their families against teens that had infrequent family dinners. The results were quite skewed towards teens with more infrequent family dinners being likelier to commit more drug abuse than teens who have frequent dinners with their families. This correlation for one, seemed to have causal circumstances in between the two variables, and secondly was a little farfetched. The article quoted:

It turns legitimate social problems into personal moral issues, which are addressed through exhortation and preaching, often glossed as “education”.

I completely agree with this statement and feel the drug abuse issue needs to be looked at circumstantially and not making insufficient enough family dinners to blame, when further studies show many reasons why family meals cause greater animosity and distance between parents and children, maybe having more to do with teens acting out.

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