The situation portrayed above may not be as bad as it seems. Multiple studies have shown just how important the traditional family dinner is. A small study published in Pediatrics found that most family meals were relatively short (as short as 20 minutes), were eaten primarily in the kitchen, and were plated by a parent. And best of all, a family that eats together stays thin together:
[R]esults indicated that the majority of positive family- and parent- level interpersonal and food-related dynamics (eg, group enjoyment, relationship quality) during family meals were associated with a reduced prevalence of childhood overweight.
Conversely, when dinnertime interactions were negative between family members (and negative regarding the food served), the risk of children becoming overweight was higher. In fact, childhood obesity tends to be less prevalent in families where members simply get along well with (and even like) each other:
For example, previous research has shown that high family functioning (eg, good communication, positive interpersonal relationships, good problem-solving skills) is associated with lower adolescent BMI, more fruit and vegetable intake, and frequent family meals. Thus, it would be important for interventions that aim to reduce childhood obesity, or increase family meals, to pay attention to training families how to attend to both interpersonal dynamics and food-related dynamics at family mealtimes.