The ABCs of Family Mealtimes: Observational Lessons for Promoting Healthy Outcomes for Children With Persistent Asthma


  • This research was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institutes of Health to the first author (MH 51771, HD057447). The authors express their gratitude to the families who allowed us into their homes as a part of this study and to Stacey Greenberg who assisted in developing an earlier version of the ABC manual.

concerning this article should be addressed to Barbara H. Fiese, PhD, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, The Family Resiliency Center, 904 W. Nevada, 1016B Doris Kelley Christopher Hall, MC-081, Urbana, IL 61801-3811. Electronic mail may be sent to


Family mealtimes have the potential to promote healthy child development. This observational study of 200 family mealtimes examined the relation between child health in a group of children (ages 5 to 12) with persistent asthma and 3 dimensions of mealtime interaction: Action, Behavior Control, and Communication. Percent time spent in Action and Positive Communication varied by asthma severity, child quality of life, and sociodemographic variables. Positive communication during mealtimes predicted child quality of life. Significant interactions between demographic variables and behavior control suggested that higher levels of behavior control affected child quality of life in the context of lower maternal education. Guidance is offered for practitioners and policy makers toward promoting healthy family mealtimes as a public health priority.