Family mealtime negativity and adolescent binge-eating: A replication and extension study in a community sample

Objective To explore differences in family mealtime characteristics and family mealtime emotions among adolescents who report engaging in binge-eating in comparison to those who do not. Method Adolescents (N = 495) recruited from UK schools/colleges reported on their family mealtime frequency and atmosphere, family mealtime emotions, anxiety, depression and eating psychopathology. Results No significant differences were found between adolescents who reported binge-eating (n = 32 boys; n = 82 girls) and those who did not (n = 196 boys; n = 185 girls) on family mealtime frequency or mealtime atmosphere scores. However, boys and girls who binge-eat reported significantly lower levels of positive family mealtime emotions and significantly higher levels of family mealtime anxiety and anger (girls only), compared with their peers who did not report binge-eating. Discussion Adolescents who binge-eat experience significantly greater negative emotional responses to family mealtimes than their peers. Further research should explore why these experiences are more negative, including broader familial factors and interactions.