To determine whether preschool-age children's participation in family routines is associated with greater likelihood of having high social-emotional health (SEH).
Data come from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort preschool wave, a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001. Based on the literature and distribution of responses, 5 routines were categorized as present if children participated in family dinners ≥5 days per week, reading, storytelling, or singing ≥3 times per week, and play ≥few times per week. A total routines score (0–5) was also computed. Mothers rated children's SEH on 24 items scored 1 through 5. Items were summed into a total score, which was dichotomized at >1 SD above the mean, to reflect low/high SEH. Multivariable analyses assessed associations between SEH, routines score, and individual routines, adjusting for confounders.
Among ∼8550 children, 16.6% had high SEH. For each additional routine in which a child participated, there was a 1.47 greater odds of having high SEH. In adjusted models, participating in dinners: 1.4 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3–1.6), storytelling: 1.9 (95% CI, 1.6–2.4), singing: 1.5 (95% CI, 1.2–1.9), and play: 1.3 (95% CI, 1.1–1.5) was associated with increased odds of high SEH. Reading was not associated with greater odds of high SEH (1.2, 95% CI, 0.9–1.5).
Participation in a higher number of routines and in select routines was associated with increased likelihood of having high SEH. Promoting family routines may contribute to greater SEH before school entry.