Why a family meal is so important: Children who eat dinner without their dads are


  • Researchers looked at 1,400 married couples with two-year-old children 
  • Kids who ate dinner less often with their dad were more poorly behaved

Fathers who don’t make it home for dinner with their families could end up with more badly behaved children.

Researchers looked at 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.

Then, when the child was four or five years old, they asked parents questions about their behaviour, such as tantrums and sharing.

Toddlers who ate dinner less often with their father were more poorly behaved at an older age.

That was the case even if they ate dinner with their mother every day – suggesting it is best to have both parents present.

Fathers who don't make it home for dinner with their families could end up with more badly behaved children

Fathers who don’t make it home for dinner with their families could end up with more badly behaved children

Sehyun Ju, who led the study from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, 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 children who ate dinner less often with their mother aged two – perhaps eating with another family member or babysitter instead – were also more poorly behaved at an older age.

Just one day a week where a father or mother was missing from the dinner table was significantly linked to worse childhood behaviour.

Fathers who were dissatisfied with their work and financial situation were found to eat dinner with their family less often.

This was regardless of whether they worked long hours, suggesting men unhappy at work may lack the energy or motivation to make it home for dinner with their child.

Toddlers who ate dinner less often with their father were more poorly behaved at an older age

Toddlers who ate dinner less often with their father were more poorly behaved at an older age

When fathers were more dissatisfied with work, mothers more often ate dinner with their child.

That could show women trying to compensate for stressed fathers by taking their place at the dinner table.

But the results suggest even when mothers are at the dinner table, children may lose out due to the absence of their father.

Regardless of how often women ate evening meals with their toddler, the child’s behaviour was worse if their father ate dinner with them less often.

The study also found women who were dissatisfied with their jobs and financial situation had more badly behaved children – perhaps because they were more tired and less emotionally engaged with their offspring.

But, unlike fathers, mothers were not less likely to be there for dinner with their child if they were unhappy in their work.

The apparent importance of parents being at mealtimes was seen even after researchers took into account the involvement of mothers and fathers in their children’s lives generally, for example at bedtime and bath-time.

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.’

Dr Karen Kramer, senior author of the study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 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.’

40 of the most groan-worthy Dad jokes 

  1. What do you call a bear with no socks on? Bare foot. 
  2. What button is impossible to unbutton? The belly button. 
  3. What did Michael Jackson call his denim store? Billie Jeans. 
  4. What is invisible and smells of worms? A bird’s fart. 
  5. What do you call a Minecraft celebration? A block party. 
  6. Who is the best Kung Fu vegetable? Brocc‐Lee. 
  7. What do you call a rabbit who is angry over getting burnt? A hot cross bunny. 
  8. What did the butt say to the other butt? PTTTTT.
  9. What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot.
  10. Why couldn’t the toilet paper cross the road? He got stuck in a crack.
  11. What’s round and sounds like a trumpet? A crumpet. 
  12. What do you call a sleeping dinosaur? A dino‐SNORE.
  13. What do you call a man with a spade on his head? Dug. 
  14. What kind of hair do they sell at IHOP? Eggstensions. 
  15. What do you call an Asian man who always has correct change? Exact Lee. 
  16. What do you call an apple that farts? A fruity Tooty. 
  17. What is the best day to cook? FRY‐DAY. 
  18. What did the horse say when it fell? GIDDYUP! 
  19. What do you receive when you ask a lemon to help? Lemon aid 
  20. Why can’t you give Elsa a balloon? Because she will let it go. 
  21. When does a sandwich cook? When it is bakin’ lettuce and tomato.
  22. Why did the smart phone need glasses? It lost all its contacts. 
  23. What state has the smallest drinks? Mini‐soda. 
  24. Why did the cow cross the road? They wanted to go to the mooooovies.
  25. What do you call a funky car? Mustang. 
  26. What did the hammer say to his homeboys? Nailed it. 
  27. Why are cats good at video games? Because they have nine lives. 
  28. What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idea. 
  29. What is big and green and falls off over the tree will kill you? A snooker table. 
  30. What did the French guy do when he drank too much water? He went oui oui in his pants.
  31. Where do pencils spend their vacation? Pencil‐Vania. 
  32. What do flies eat for breakfast? A bowl of poop loops. 
  33. Why did the balloon go near the needle? He wanted to be a pop star. 
  34. What did the duck do when he read all these jokes? He quacked up. 
  35. Why was the tomato all red? It saw the salad dressing. 
  36. What do you call a female magician in the dessert? A sand witch. 
  37. How do billboards talk? Sign language. 
  38. What is brown and sticky? A stick. 
  39. I hurt my foot driving the other day. You know what I called? The toe company. 
  40. What does a dinosaur use to pay bills? Tyrannosaurus checks. 



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