Sunday dinners are a hallmark of black life. (Cue "Soul Food" closing scene.) And while psychologists have touted the family meal's beneficial affect on everything from curbing risky behavior among teens -- a problem that researchers say is on the decline among African Americans -- to lowering the risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems and substance dependencies, others say they aren't so convinced.

In a study of more than 21,000 children, ages five to 15, researchers from Columbia University and New York University determined that there wasn't any relationship between family meals and a child's academic outcomes or behavior.

Study co-author Daniel P. Miller, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Social Work, says there was no benefit to having breakfast together either.

"We find no relationship between family breakfasts or family dinners and any child outcomes -- reading, math and science scores, or behavior problems," Miller said in a release.

His study, which is slated to appear in the journal Child Development, draws upon data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. children who entered kindergarten in 1998 and were tracked through the eighth grade. To pinpoint the effect of family meal time on academic outcomes and behavior, Miller and his team also controlled for factors such as parental employment, television-watching, the quality of school facilities, and the years of experience the children's teachers had, among others.

The findings indicate that policy makers looking for ways to close the growing achievement gap between black children and their white counterparts are going to have to continue looking outside of the home.

That isn't to discount the value of family mealtime, however. "We would never suggest that families should not eat meals together,” Miller says. "The family meal table is an important place for parents and children to interact and communicate. However, it may be that the nature and extent of the influence of family dinners and breakfasts may be different than previously understood.”

Quick Poll

Do you think eating together has a direct impact on kids' behavior and how well they do in school?


Related on HuffPost:

15 Easy Weeknight Dinners The Whole Family Will Love
Loading Slideshow...
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs

    These tender meatballs are baked not fried. They also have a few secret ingredients that make them perfect every time... <a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a>

  • New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp

    New Orleans BBQ Shrimp is sautéed shrimp in a Worcestershire-spiked butter sauce. If you keep shrimp in your freezer, it’s one of those dishes you can throw together at a moment’s notice. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Cashew Chicken

    Tender chunks of stir-fried chicken, crispy roasted cashews and bright green scallions in an authentic brown garlic sauce — tastes just like take-out, only better. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • BBQ Turkey Meatloaf

    This tender and moist turkey meatloaf with a tangy-sweet BBQ glaze is loved by kids and adults alike. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Crispy Tilapia Fingers with Lemon Garlic Mayonnaise

    Kids love these tilapia fillets lightly coated with panko, pan fried to crispy perfection, and served with a tangy garlic and lemon mayonnaise. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Chicken Tacos

    Chock full of veggies, these are much healthier than traditional beef tacos and just as good, if not better. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Mirin Glazed Salmon

    Adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson, this is an easy and elegant dish. Most of the ingredients are right out of the pantry, and you can have it on the table in 20 minutes. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Parmesan Crusted Chicken

    This is a great chicken dish -- you can dress it down for a weeknight family dinner or gussy it up for company. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp

    Shrimp are quickly sautéed with garlic and onions and then simmered in a traditional Vietnamese caramel sauce. Serve with jasmine rice and steamed broccoli for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • This white bean ragout makes a satisfying meatless main course, and it's the perfect way to use up all those late summer tomatoes. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Chicken Meatballs with Tomato Balsamic Glaze

    Ground chicken makes tender and tasty meatballs. Serve these with buttered noodles and a green vegetable for a quick and easy weeknight meal. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Grilled Salmon with Creamy Cucumber-Dill Salad

    Make this simply grilled salmon topped with a tangy and refreshing cucumber salad while the weather's still warm... <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Grilled Moroccan Chicken

    These Moroccan inspired grilled chicken breasts go beautifully with couscous and a grated carrot salad. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • Southwestern Maple Glazed Salmon

    Salmon fillets get a generous dusting of homemade chili powder before being broiled and glazed with maple syrup. Fresh pineapple takes it over the top. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>

  • English Muffin Pizzas

    A childhood favorite, for those nights when you just don't have time. <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Get the recipe</a></strong>