The Importance of Family Dinners III | Center on Addiction

The Importance of Family Dinners III

The Importance of Family Dinners III

Published: September 2006

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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 1,297 teens, ages 12 to 17 (591 boys, 706 girls), and 562 parents of teens, of whom 470 were parents of the teens we interviewed.


This report found that 58% of teens reported having dinner with their family at least 5 times a week. Compared to parents who reported having frequent family dinners (5 or more per week), parents who said they had infrequent family dinners (2 or fewer per week) were:

  • 5 times likelier to have said they had a fair or poor relationship with their teen
  • 1.5 times likelier to have said they knew the parents of their teen’s friends not very well or not at all
  • More than two times likelier to have said they did not know the names of their teen’s teachers
  • Twice as likely to have said that parents deserved not very much blame or no blame at all when a teenager used illegal drugs

The report also examined the importance of family dinners in relation to the rate of current smoking and drinking among teens. Compared to teens that had 5 or more family dinners per week, teens who had 2 or fewer were:

  • More than twice as likely to have tried cigarettes
  • 1.5 times likelier to have tried alcohol
  • Twice as likely to have tried marijuana

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