A Formative Evaluation of Shared Family Mealtime for Parents of Toddlers and Young Children

Brian L. Quick, Barbara H. Fiese, Barbara Anderson, Brenda D. Koester, Diane W. Marlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Shared family mealtime offers numerous health benefits for young children. Unfortunately, only a few studies examine the benefits and barriers to eating together as a family. The present study seeks to fill this gap in the literature by applying the health belief model to understand parents' perceptions about the challenges of preparing and executing family mealtime for toddlers and young children. Six focus groups were conducted with parents of toddlers and/or young children (n = 24). Results revealed that parents identified several benefits to shared family mealtime, including good teaching moments for their children, enhanced family connectedness, and encouraging nutritious meals. Parents also identified barriers to eating together as a family, including child behavioral issues, scheduling difficulties, and ill-prepared husbands. The risks associated with not eating together as a family were seldom mentioned; however, parents highlighted several issues related to self-efficacy, such as difficulty in selecting meals and challenges with cooking. Potential cues to action include print materials encouraging parents by emphasizing the benefits of eating together as a family. Results are discussed with an emphasis on message design strategies for health practitioners interested in advocating this important yet under-studied phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)656-666
Number of pages11
JournalHealth communication
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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