Family Dinner Day

Photo by Brooke Lark

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University recently released its fifth report on the Importance of Family Dinners, compiling yet another set of research on this critical—but too infrequent—practice in our homes.  Kara mentioned last year’s report, and this year’s is no less noteworthy.

They’ve coordinated their release effort with a national Family Day today.  The point is to push families to eat together as a prevention factor for drug and alcohol use.  As the research adds up over time, it continues to point to a common bottom line: more=less.  More family dinners shared leads to less risk of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use among teenagers.  In fact, kids who share less than 3 family dinners per week are twice as likely to use tobacco or marijuana and 1.5 times more likely to use alcohol.

Here’s a new twist: Those who share 3 or less dinners per week AND say electronic distractions are present at the table (phones, laptops, video games) are 3 times more likely to use tobacco or marijuana and 2.5 times more likely to use alcohol.  Further, teens who share 3 or less dinners per week are:

  • 1.5 times likelier to say technology is being used at the table.
  • 1.5 times likelier to report getting mostly C’s or lower grades in school.
  • 2 times as likely to say they expect to use drugs in the future.
  • 5 times likelier to say they have a fair or poor (as opposed to excellent) relationship with their mother and 4 times likelier to say the same about their father

The relationship between dinners and substance use among younger teens (12-13 years old) is strongest—a lot of the above stats jump or even double when isolating just the early teen range.  In another study, family dinners have been show to reduce likelihood of participation in sexual risk behaviors.

A final twist: Most teens say they want those family dinnertimes to happen.  Two thirds said they’d give up a weeknight activity to have dinner with the fam.

Worth chewing on.