Family Dinners & Teen Substance Abuse
Some great research has been done (16 years worth) by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University on the effect of frequent family dinners on teens' use of drugs and alcohol. The list of findings below come from The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XV: Teens and Parents which CASA released on 08/19/10.
The study surveyed 1055 teens directly (540 males, 515 females), 1000 teens by telephone (511 boys, 489 girls), and 456 parents of these teens via internet. The information was analyzed by QEV Analytics, Ltd. and published in a report called The Importance of Family Dinners VI.
For this report, frequent family dinners consist of sit-down dinners 5 to 7 times per week, and infrequent family dinners are fewer than 3 times per week. Here are the findings:
- Teens who have infrequent family dinners are 2 times as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol, and 1.5 times as likely to use marijuana.
- Teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to say they can access marijuana or prescription drugs in an hour or less for purposes of getting high.
- 75% of teens report that they talk to their parents at dinner about what's going on in their lives.
- 80% of parents say they learn more about what's going on in their teen's lives during dinner conversations.
- Teens who talk to their parents at dinner about their lives are less likely to smoke, drink and use marijuana than those who don't.
- Teens who have frequent family dinners with their parents are 3 times as likely to say they have excellent relationships with both mom and dad. They are also 2 times as likely to say their parents are good listeners.
- Nearly 75% of teens say family dinners with parents are important, and 60% of teens who have infrequent dinners with their parents wish they could eat with their parents more often.
- Teens who eat family dinners less than 3 times per week are nearly 2 times as likely to report receiving mostly C's or lower grades in school.
- Among teens who don't use alcohol or marijuana, those who have frequent family dinners per week are more likely to cite their parents as the main reason.
So the findings are pretty clear. Family dinners are important and provide all children, teens or otherwise, the opportunity to connect with their parents, talk about their lives, and feel understood and supported. Parents should never forget that they still are the greatest influence on how their kids feel, behave, and see themselves.
P.S. A family dinner means sitting down together in one place without the TV on in the background, cell phones, or other distractions. It's a time for bonding and communication. Take-out is fine!