The Importance of Family Dinners 2005 | Center on Addiction

The Importance of Family Dinners II

The Importance of Family Dinners II

Published: September 2005

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CASAColumbia has surveyed thousands of American teens and their parents to identify situations and circumstances that influence 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 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.


CASAColumbia contracted with QEV Analytics, a national public opinion research firm, to conduct a nationally representative telephone-based survey of 1,000 teens, ages 12 to 17 (503 boys, 497 girls), and 829 parents, of whom 282 were parents of the teens we interviewed.


This report found that 58% of teens reported having dinner with their families at least 5 times a week. Frequent family dining was associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking and other drug use. Compared to teens that had 5 or more family dinners per week, those who had 2 or fewer are:

  • 3 times likelier to have tried marijuana
  • 2.5 times likelier to have smoked cigarettes
  • More than 1.5 times likelier to have drunk alcohol

Teens who dined infrequently with their families were also likelier to have friends who used drugs. Compared to teens that had 5 or more family dinners per week, those who had 2 or fewerless were:

  • Almost 3 times as likely to have reported that half or more of their friends used marijuana
  • Twice as likely to have known a friend or classmate who used ecstasy
  • Nearly 80% likelier to have known a friend or classmate who abused prescription drugs
  • 40% likelier to have known a friend or classmate who used acid, cocaine or heroin

This report also explored the importance of family dinners in teen academic achievement and family relationships.

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