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Family Dinners Play Huge Role in Youth Drug Prevention

By September 24, 2009

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If you are looking for a way to keep your children alcohol and drug free through their teen years, having regular family dinners together - with no distractions - may be the best approach that you can take. Teens who have frequent family dinners - five or more per week - are much less likely use alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

Family dinners are not a "silver bullet" to prevent all teen substance abuse, but teens who communicate frequently and regularly with parents are less likely to try drugs, research shows.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has released it's fifth edition of "The Importance of Family Dinners" report and once again the value of frequent family dinners is highlighted within its results.

"The magic of the family dinner comes not from the food on the plate but from who's at the table and what's happening there. The emotional and social benefits that come from family dinners are priceless," said Elizabeth Planet, CASA's Vice President and Director of Special Projects in a news release.

"We know that teens who have frequent family dinners are likelier to get A's and B's in school and have excellent relationships with their parents. Having dinner as a family is one of the easiest ways to create routine opportunities for parental engagement and communication, two keys to raising drug-free children."

The report divides teens into two categories - those who have less than three family dinners a week and those who have five or more per week with no distractions. No distractions means no texting, no using a cell phone, Blackberry, laptop or Game Boy at the table.

The Influence of Family Dinners

The influence of frequent family dinners is significant. Here are some of findings of this year's report. Teens who have infrequent family dinners are:

  • Twice as likely to be able to get marijuana within one hour.

  • One and a half times likelier to get prescription drugs within an hour.

  • Twice as likely to have friends who use marijuana and Ecstasy.

  • More than one and a half times likelier to have friends who drink, abuse prescription drugs, and use Meth.

  • Almost one and a half times likelier to have friends who use illegal drugs like cocaine, acid and heroin.

  • More than one and a half times likelier to have seen their parent(s) drunk and to think their father is okay with them drinking.

More Likely to Get Drunk

According to the report - which from CASA's 14th annual back to school survey, National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIV: Teens and Parents, released in August 2009 - teens who have seen their parent(s) drunk are likelier to drink, get drunk, and try cigarettes and marijuana.

Among 12- and 13-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are six times likelier to use marijuana, four times likelier to use tobacco, and three times likelier to use alcohol.

Taking your children to church or religious services at least once a week also helps prevent substance abuse. The report found that teens never attend services are more than twice as likely to try cigarettes, and twice as likely to try marijuana and alcohol.

Frequent family dinners also improves teen performance in school. Teens who have infrequent family dinners are one and a half times likelier to report getting grades of C or lower in school.

Family Day 2009

To promote more frequent family dinners as a substance abuse preventive measure, each year since 2001, CASA has sponsored Family Day A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children. Celebrated on the fourth Monday in September - the 28th in 2009 - Family Day promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children's risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs.

For more information on Family Day visit CASAFamilyDay.org.

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Photo: BigStockPhoto.com
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