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Surprising Science

Do Family Dinners Cut Teen Drug Use?

According to earlier studies, having dinner together as a family can help families eat healthier, have meaningful conversation and keep teens from obtaining drug and delinquency problems. However, later studies revealed other factors that have more to do with adolescent issues, which the amount of family dinners had no effect on. 

Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell

What’s the Latest Development?

In the United States, the fourth Monday in September is “Family Day-A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children.” It was initiated by President Barack Obama as a way to fight adolescent drug problems. According to new data, the study of teen behavior over a longer period of time than previous studies, it revealed that there was not a significant amount of teenagers who dined with their family that were less likely to get into trouble or caught up with drugsin comparison to the teenagers that did not engage in a routine family-style dining. The National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health studied the behavior of about 18,000 teens from ages 12-18 in 1994-95, and then the same group was queried after a good, full year in adulthood, and then for a third time in 2003-04. When researchers reviewed the data of the teens that ate frequently with their families they were “18% less likely to use drugs than teens that ate with their families on two or fewer evenings.” However, the information on the study group as adults, the change in their dinner habits had no real impact on drug usewhen taking into account the families that had good relationships had more meals together and tended to be less likely to have drug or delinquency issues. Researchers say there are many other factors involved that influence problematic behavior, such as teens with drug and alcohol-addicted parents, disengaged parents, a home environment where family conflict exists, families dealing with economic hardships or parents with very demanding jobs that prevent them from being home for dinnerso a direct link between “family dinners and young adult outcomes” could not be detected.

What’s the Big Idea? 

To sit down as a family for dinner more often than not is a great way for parents to keep up on what is going on in the lives of their children; it is also a good way to establish a good family relationship. However, whether or not a teen becomes addicted to drugs or has delinquency issues cannot be determined by the number of times a family eats dinner together in a week. There are too many factors involved as to what could make a teen go down the wrong path—whether those factors are within the familial environment or outside of the home in their social environment.  


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