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Jim Liebelt Christian Blog and Commentary

Frequent Family Dinners Make a Difference in Raising Healthy, Drug-Free Teens

Over the past 18 years, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASAColumbia) at Columbia University has surveyed thousands of American teens and their parents to identify factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of teen substance abuse. We have learned that a child who gets through age 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol is virtually certain never to do so. And, we’ve learned that parents have the greatest influence on whether their teens will choose to use.

These surveys have consistently found that the more often children have dinners with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs, and that parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children.

Simply put: frequent family dinners make a difference.

In the latest report, The Importance of Family Dinners VIII, CASAColumbia examined the link between the frequency of family dinners and and the quality of teens’ relationships with their parents, the frequency with which teens attend religious services and how much parents know about what’s going on in their children’s lives, which in turn relate to the likelihood of teens’ marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use. Compared to teens who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) those who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), are:

  • One and a half times more likely to say their parents know a great deal or a fair amount about what's really going on in their lives,
  • One and a half times more likely to say they have an excellent relationship with their mother and father,
  • One and a half times likelier to attend religious services at least four times a month,
  • One and a half times less likely to report high levels of stress,
  • About half as likely to say they expect to try drugs in the future,
  • Currently using alcohol or drugs at significantly reduced levels.

Source: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASAColumbia)