What can families gain from the family meal? A mixed-papers systematic review

Georgia Middleton, Rebecca Golley, Karen Patterson, Fairley Le Moal, John Coveney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The family meal has been associated with numerous health and wellbeing benefits for both adults and children. However, the majority of the research in this area is correlational, unable to prove a causal relationship between family meals and health and wellbeing outcomes. The objectives of this systematic review were to determine the causal relationship between family meals and health and wellbeing and explore family members’ perceptions of the family meal. A systematic search across five databases was undertaken to identify both intervention studies and qualitative studies investigating the family meal. Thirty-two articles were deemed eligible for inclusion in this review. Qualitative data were synthesised via the meta-aggregation approach; however, the quantitative data were too heterogeneous to perform meta-analysis. Only one intervention included in this review exclusively targeted the family meal, the remaining studies had other target strategies as part of their intervention (e.g. physical activity, snacking, sleep routines). Only two of the eight interventions reported a statistically significant difference between control and intervention groups for family meal frequency or quality, therefore we were unable to fully explore the causal relationship between family meals and health and wellbeing outcomes. The qualitative studies identified multiple barriers to the family meal, including scheduling conflicts, exhaustion and lack of time, and reported family connection and communication as the main perceived benefits of the family meal. There is a gap between the benefits and barriers to the family meal identified through qualitative research, and current intervention strategies, with few interventions exclusively targeting the family meal. Interventions that are informed by qualitative literature and exclusively target the family meal are needed to further investigate the causal relationship between family meals and potential health and wellbeing outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104725
Number of pages10
JournalAppetite
Volume153
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Family health
  • Family meals
  • Interventions
  • Mixed-papers review
  • Qualitative
  • Systematic review

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