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Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (5 or more per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (2 or fewer) are 3 ½ times likelier to have abused prescription drugs; 3 ½ times likelier to have used an illegal drug other than marijuana or prescription drugs; 3 times likelier to have used marijuana; more than 2 ½ times likelier to have used tobacco; and 1 ½ times likelier to have drunk alcohol, according to a new report by CASAColumbia (CASA) at Columbia University and sponsored by The Safeway Foundation.
The report, The Importance of Family Dinners IV, also reveals that compared to 12- and 13-year olds who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are:
Among 14- and 15-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are 3 times likelier to have used marijuana and 2 ½ times likelier to have used tobacco compared to those who have frequent family dinners. Among 16- and 17-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to have used marijuana and almost twice as likely to have used tobacco compared to those who have frequent family dinners.
“This year’s survey finds the impact of frequent family dinners is strongest amongst 12- and 13-year olds, though the relationship holds true at every age,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “The evidence is on the table. Teens who have frequent family dinners are less likely to smoke, drink, abuse prescription drugs and use illegal drugs.”
The CASA report found 59% of teens report having dinner with their families at least 5 times a week, the same proportion CASA has observed over the past several years. Consistent with what teens report, 59% of parents say they have frequent family dinners. Findings in The Importance of Family Dinners IV draw from CASA’s 12th annual back-to-school survey, released this past August.
Family Dining and Current Teen Substance Use
The report also found that teens who have frequent family dinners are less likely to have used alcohol, gotten drunk, used tobacco or used marijuana in the past 30 days.
In the past 30 days, compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are:
What They Want at the Table is You
This year’s report finds that 84% of teens prefer to have dinner with their families rather than eat alone. 81% of 16- and 17-year olds also prefer to dine with their families.
Of those teens who have less than 3 family dinners per week, 62% say they would prefer to eat with their families compared to 92% of teens who have at least 5 family dinners per week.
The report also found that more than half of teens (59%) are eating dinner at home by themselves or with someone else when they are not eating dinner with their parents. 83% of parents say they do not worry where their teen is and what he or she is doing on those evenings when their teen does not have dinner with them.
Family Dining and Academic Performance
Teens who have dinner with their families 5 or more times a week are likelier to say that they receive mostly A’s and B’s in school compared to teens who have dinner with their families fewer than 3 times a week (64% vs. 49%). Teens who have fewer than 3 family dinners per week are more than twice as likely to do poorly in school.
“Of course there are no silver bullets; the tragedy of teen substance abuse can strike any family. But parental engagement is key to reducing teen substance abuse risk and one of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners. Parents need to know that what their kids really want at the dinner table is them,” said Elizabeth Planet, CASA’s Director of Special Projects and project manager for the survey.
QEV Analytics conducted The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XII: Teens and Parents from April 2 to May 13, 2007. The firm interviewed at home by telephone a national random sample of 1,063 12- to 17-year olds (554 boys, 509 girls) and 550 parents (53% of whom were parents of teens surveyed). Sampling error is +/- 3% for teens, +/- 4% for parents.
CASA created Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your ChildrenTM in 2001 as a national effort to promote parental engagement as a simple, effective way to reduce youth substance abuse and raise healthier children. For more information, visit www.CASAFamilyDay.org.
CASA is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA has issued 64 reports and white papers, published one book, conducted demonstration projects focused on children, families and schools at 201 sites in 73 cities and counties in 29 states plus Washington, DC and a Native American tribal reservation, and has been evaluating the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment in a variety of programs and drug courts. For more information visit www.CASAColumbia.org.
*CASAColumbia at Columbia University is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as "CASA") or any of its member organizations with the name of "CASA."