Family Mealtime Frequency and Adolescent Development
Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Studies: A Comparison
Much of adolescent development directly correlates to the social interactions between adolescents and the people with whom they spend the most time. It is therefore logical to explore the relationship between adolescents and their families to better predict their behavioural development. When conducting developmental research there are two most established ways of studying the subject population. The first is a cross-sectional study, which studies different aged cohorts at one given time. The second is a longitudinal study, which follows one set of subjects over a long period. Both of these methods were deployed in different studies to find the correlation between adolescent family mealtime and the occurrence of risk taking behaviours. A cross-sectional study, entitled Family Dinner Meal Frequency and Adolescent Development: Relationships with Developmental Assets and High-Risk Behaviors, was published in 2006. In the academic year of 1996-1997, an anonymous survey went out to just under 100,000 students grades 6 to 12. They investigated the frequency of family mealtime by asking how many times all the members living at home eat together per week; they recoded the answers into three groups, 0-1, 2-4, and 5-7. To assess the behavioural aspects they asked the students to rate their level of 16 different internal and external assets, such as positive identity and boundaries, respectively. Additionally, the students were asked to evaluate their involvement with 10 different risky or negative behaviours such as substance abuse, depression, eating disorders etc. This study demonstrates that healthy behavioural assets, such as the aforementioned, inversely relate to risky behaviours. Additionally and most importantly, frequency of family mealtime coincided with this inverse relationship. They found that a feeling of support and familial connection...
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