ARG-149

The following appeared in a newsletter published by the Appleton school district.

"In a recent study more than 5,000 adolescents were asked how often they ate meals with their families. Almost 30 percent of the teens said they ate at least seven meals per week with their families. Furthermore, according to the same survey, teens who reported having the most family meals per week were also the ones least likely to have tried illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. Family meals were also associated with lower rates of problems such as low grades in school, low self-esteem, and depression. We therefore recommend that families have as many meals together as possible. We predict that doing so will greatly benefit adolescents and turn troubled teens away from bad behaviors."


Write a response in which you discuss which questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.


According to the newsletter, the author recommends that families have as many meals together as possible so as to greatly benefit adolescents and turn troubled teens away from bad behaviors. Although there is some validity in the author's argument, some questions need to be answered to adequately evaluate the author's argument.


First, we need to determine the accuracy and credibility of the survey referred to in the article. Despite the relatively large number of respondents and the positive answers given by 30% of the respondents, we still need to question whether this survey reflects the truth. For example, is it possible that the investigator displayed a predisposition towards eating together as a family during the interview, or that these teens deliberately gave untrue answers in order to provide the researchers with a good impression? If this was the case, then the validity of the survey would be questioned, and thus the author's conclusion would be challenged. However, if the survey was conducted in a more direct manner, such as if the surveyor directly observed how often the teenagers ate with their families, then the author's conclusion would be strengthened.


Second, even if the frequency with which these adolescents ate with their families is true, we need to know the reason why these adolescents do not use drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. It is quite possible that frequent meals at home and less delinquent behavior among adolescents are independent results of the same factor. For example, it is likely that family members are close, so people are willing to eat together, and due to the same reason, the children develop better in all areas. In a similar vein, the family's financial situation may play a role. Children's development may be negatively affected by the family's poor financial situation. Because the family is short of money, the parents may always need to work outside the home and not ensure they eat with them. Besides, that families eat together may not be the reason why children behave well; instead, it is the result of the children's good behavior. Any of these possibilities, if they did occur, would weaken the author's conclusion.


Third, admitted that eating with family helps solve adolescent drug use, smoking, alcoholism, poor grades, low self-esteem, depression, etc. Can eating with family greatly benefit adolescents and save troubled youth? Problems such as drug use, smoking, alcohol abuse, poor grades, low self-esteem, and depression may just be less common in adolescents, while more common problems such as coddling and lack of ability to live independently may not be solved by increasing the frequency of eating with the family. Also, eating at home may prevent these problems from occurring, but it may not help children who are already experiencing problems. If the above does happen, then the author's conclusion is weakened.


Finally, even though eating with the family can help solve problems in adolescents, it is a question of whether or not eating with the family should be done as often as possible, as the author suggests. The fact that eating with the family is good for children's mental health may be due to the fact that there is enough family companionship, but this does not mean that more companionship is better. In addition, even if more companionship is better, other ways of increasing companionship might have the same effect, such as going on trips together, participating in recreational activities together, reading together, and so on. In this case, the author's proposal should not be implemented.


In summary, we need to answer the above questions in order to more fully evaluate the author's conclusion.


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