My own childhood consisted of many dinners together, even if it was not always with both parents and there were nights were my mom worked late so dinner was bit later or on my own but then I kept her company on those nights. It involved the age old "what did you do in school today"..."nothing" but then somehow it went either really well and at other times depending on my dad's mood really poorly. The times that it was good it went from nothing, to a little something, to non-stop talking. The times it was not good it went from nothing, to food stuck in my throat, tears held back and parental fight about how my father should leave me alone at dinner time.
Yet it was there - I am pretty sure most of us did not have the novel like conversations about the influence of Socrates on theology but in my house we did talk some politics, some history, some music, some pop culture and some current events along with jokes and without knowing it the art of dinner conversation. Most parents, where I grew up, were busy people working hard to make a start in the States (being and living in a neighborhood of immigrants) and did not have time for discussions on Dickens but did want to eat and talk with their kids. In a busy day it was a time to slow down and be together before kids ran outside or to another tv or to their room to listen to music or read. I know the myth these days is that our kids are on their devices but to some degree we had our own even though they were not the same as theirs.
I am not saying this meant we did not do things that we should not have, or that we all got great grades but I look back at most of my friends from then, my friends from high school and we all did really well (there were some exceptions but hey I grew up in a city with a LOT of people so not surprising). We did become achievers and we did do better than our parents and we bounced back from our mistakes.
Was it because we had dinner with our parents ? Were the kids who fell through the cracks the ones who did not (my personal study says that was more the case than not) have this family time? It was not always pleasant and often it was stressful for many of us with parents who were much less likely to use the time to encourage growth but instead believed in fear goals .. you know the ones ... "if you know what's good for you, then you will fill in the blank". We did not always have parents who could relate to our experiences which were so different than their own but they did want us to know they were paying attention.
In my experience with people I know most of us are home at dinner time, some of us cook, some of us get take out and some do a little of that prepared meal that is just easier on any given night. I try and have dinner with my kids every night, the TV was on in the background often when I was growing up and that actually added some discussion, it is often on in the background in my house and I find that my boys do go from "I did not do anything special today" to talking non-stop if I allow for them to tell me about things that interest them, I know things about Halo that I would have not ever imagined. These are memories made but more than that it is actually the foundation that we are building between us of a safe place for them to come and test new ideas on, to try their limits and even to get guidance. It will not stop them from bad choices because those are lessons in life that we all must learn to get over but am hoping the studies are right and it will make it easier for them to make better choices more often than not.