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Family Mealtime Interaction Affects Children's Health

Positive communication at mealtime predicts improved quality of life for children with asthma

THURSDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- The health of children with persistent asthma is linked to the quality of social interaction with their families during mealtime, according to a study published in the January/February issue of Child Development.

Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues examined the link between child health indicators and mealtime interaction, in 200 families with children ages 5 to 12 who had persistent asthma, by observing family interactions during a video-recorded meal in their home.

The researchers found that, although mealtimes lasted on average only 18 minutes, the quality of social interactions as families ate affected the children's asthma symptoms and lung function. In families with positive communication during mealtime, such as friendly joking and talking about life events, children had improved quality of life related to their asthma. In families in which the primary caregiver had less education and devoted more of the mealtime to behavior control, the children had poorer quality of life.

"Incorporating healthy ways of relating during shared mealtimes in addition to evidence-based nutrition practices is practical, has the opportunity to reach a large number of children, and is also based on an increasingly large evidence base," the authors write.

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