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The mode-locking of dissipative soliton fiber lasers using large mode area fiber supporting multiple transverse modes is studied experimentally and theoretically. The averaged mode-locking dynamics in a multi-mode fiber are studied using a distributed model. The co-propagation of multiple transverse modes is governed by a system of coupled Ginzburg-Landau equations. Simulations show that stable and robust mode-locked pulses can be produced. However, the mode-locking can be destabilized by excessive higher-order mode content. Experiments using large core step-index fiber, photonic crystal fiber, and chirally-coupled core fiber show that mode-locking can be significantly disturbed in the presence of higher-order modes, resulting in lower maximum single-pulse energies. In practice, spatial mode content must be carefully controlled to achieve full pulse energy scaling. This paper demonstrates that mode-locking performance is very sensitive to the presence of multiple waveguide modes when compared to systems such as amplifiers and continuous-wave lasers.