The Nature of Family Meals: A New Vision of Families of Children with Autism

Sarah L. Curtiss, Aaron T. Ebata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Families with children on the autism spectrum are often viewed in terms of their deficits rather than their strengths. Family meals are portrayed as sources of stress and struggle for parents and children. In this study, we take a resilience perspective to challenge underlying assumptions and get a more accurate picture of the nature of shared family meals. In-depth interviews were conducted and mealtimes were video recorded with 16 families for this thematic analysis. We identified four themes as being particularly salient to the mealtime experience: (1) schools and homework, (2) managing eating, (3) chores, and (4) intimate conversations. Our results elucidate the context of mealtimes as a site where parents struggle, yet negotiate, the challenges of everyday family life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-452
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019


  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Family processes
  • Mealtimes
  • Picky eating
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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