The Importance of Family Dinners 2011 | Center on Addiction

The Importance of Family Dinners VII

The Importance of Family Dinners VII

Published: September 2011

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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.


On behalf of CASAColumbia, Knowledge Networks, an international online research organization, conducted a nationally representative Internet-based survey of 1,037 teens, ages 12 to 17 (546 boys, 491 girls), and 528 parents of these teens. In addition, QEV Analytics, a national public opinion research firm, conducted a nationally representative telephone-based survey of 1,006 teens, ages 12 to 17 (478 boys, 528 girls), asking teens questions that we have used to measure trends over time.


This report found that 58% of teens reported having dinner with their families at least 5 times a week. Compared to teens who had frequent family dinners (5  per week), those who had infrequent family dinners (2 or fewer per week) are almost 4 times likelier to have used tobacco, more than twice as likely to have used alcohol, 2.5 times likelier to have used marijuana; and almost 4 times likelier to have said they expected to try drugs in the future. The report also revealed that teens that had infrequent family dinners were likelier to have said they had ready access to alcohol, prescription drugs (without a prescription, in order to get high) or marijuana.

Additionally, the report examined the amount of time parents spent with teens and the role that played in substance abuse prevention.

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