URBANA A University of Illinois scientist reports that family mealtimes that contain three ingredients in the right amounts can improve the quality of life in children who have chronic asthma.
"Family mealtimes, when they're done right, are linked to many benefits for children, including a reduced risk of substance abuse, eating disorders, and obesity. In this study, we've put these mealtimes under a microscope so we can see minute by minute which factors deliver these healthy outcomes," said Barbara H. Fiese, director of the U of I's Family Resiliency Center.
Which three ingredients make such a big difference? It's as easy to remember as ABC: action, which includes eliminating such distractions as cell phones and the TV; behavior control, which involves discipline that isn't harsh and also teaches manners; and communication that shows genuine interest and concern about what's going on in each others' lives.
And, because any good recipe is specific about the amounts of each ingredient, Fiese has issued some guidelines.
"Communication is by far the most important ingredient. The average family meal takes 18 minutes, and I'd allot about 2 minutes to action, 4 minutes to behavior control, and 12 minutes to positive communication that affirms kids' importance, helps them resolve troublesome issues, and reminds them to take their medicine or write a thank-you note," she said.
Fiese and her colleagues videotaped 200 families that included children aged 5 to 12 with persistent asthma, observing and coding their actions during family meals. Caregivers filled out a questionnaire assessing the severity of the child's symptoms, and a respiratory therapist checked the kids' lung functioning. The researchers controlled for adherence to medication.
The kids filled out a 23-item asthma-specific questionnaire assessing their quality of life, rating such items as the degree to which they worried about their symptoms and ho
|Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences