The Importance of Family Dinners 2003 | CASAColumbia

The Importance of Family Dinners

The Importance of Family Dinners

Published: September 2003

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CASAColumbia surveyed thousands of American teens and their parents to identify situations and circumstances that influenced the risk of teen substance abuse. What we have learned is that parental engagement in children’s lives is fundamental to keeping children away from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and that parents have the greatest influence on whether their teens will choose not to use substances. Our teen surveys have consistently found a relationship between children having frequent dinners with their parents and a decreased risk of their smoking, drinking or using other 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 big difference.


QEV Analytics, a national public opinion research firm, was hired by CASAColumbia to conduct a nationally representative telephone-based survey of 1,987 teens, ages 12 to 17 (1,044 boys, 943 girls), and 504 parents, of whom 403 were parents of the teens we interviewed.


This survey found that the more often children had dinner with their parents, the less likely they were to smoke, drink or use marijuana. The relationship between a parent and a child played a critical role in prevention.

Compared to teens that had family dinners twice a week or less, teens that had dinner with their families 5 or more nights a week were:

  • 32% likelier never to have tried cigarettes
  • 45% likelier never to have tried alcohol
  • 24% likelier never to have smoked marijuana

The importance of family dinners was also linked to academic performance. Teens that had dinner with their families 5 or more times a week were almost twice as likely to receive As in school compared to teens that had dinner with their families 2 or fewer times a week (20% vs. 12%).

This report also explored the frequency of family dinners and the role they played in substance abuse prevention.

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