This project asks families what mealtime together means to them. The topic of family mealtime appears comparatively infrequently in academic literature, and any meaning that families associate with mealtime has seldom been studied directly. This particular research investigates meanings of the understudied mealtime event by interviewing three or four generations of family members from five different families. Attention is paid to emerging standards of rigor for qualitative research, namely applicability through the selection of families who have a history of practicing a family mealtime tradition, truth value in faithfully representing the interviewees perceptions, and auditability by including detail of the research process. Findings are consistent with the available literature, with survey results, and with folk wisdom. Here are the major findings: As anticipated, the interview families report a decline in meals eaten together. Not anticipated was one important reason for the decline, namely, family adherence to the notion that the individual's freedom to choose takes precedence over the group interest when there is conflict at mealtime. Even so, interviewees affirm their determination to maintain a strong mealtime tradition. Families intend to show love through meal preparation, they value working together, the believe in the spiritual importance of family life, they want to protect the mealtime from outside intrusion, and they like being able to talk about whatever is important to each of them. Mealtime is a time of connection and bonding. Families enjoy being all together as a family. They miss getting together regularly for whatever reasons. And they particularly value their Sunday dinner time. All ages unanimously advise others to adopt a family mealtime tradition. The core assertion is that the family mealtime plays a major role in constructing the family unit.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life



Date Submitted


Document Type





mealtime, family, quality time