CASA* and TV Land/Nick At Nite Report Shows Frequent Family Dinners Cut Teens’ Substance Abuse Risk in Half | CASAColumbia

CASA* and TV Land/Nick At Nite Report Shows Frequent Family Dinners Cut Teens’ Substance Abuse Risk in Half

CASA* and TV Land/Nick At Nite Report Shows Frequent Family Dinners Cut Teens’ Substance Abuse Risk in Half

Teens Who Have Frequent Family Dinners Also Likelier to Get Better Grades in School, Teens and Their Parents Desire More Frequent Family Dinners
NEW YORK, N.Y., September 13, 2005

How often a family eats dinner together is a powerful indicator of whether a teen is likely to smoke, drink or use drugs and whether the teen is likely to perform better academically, according to a new report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University and sponsored by TV Land and Nick at Nite’s Family Table. The study – The Importance of Family Dinners II – also reveals that teens and their parents wish they could have dinner together more often. Findings in The Importance of Family Dinners II draw from CASA’s 10th annual back-to-school survey, conducted earlier this year.

This year, 58% of teens report having dinner with their families at least 5 times a week, a substantial increase from the 47% of teens having 5 or more family dinners in a typical week in 1998, when CASA first measured the relationship between family dinners and teen substance abuse risk. In those families that have fewer than 3 dinners in a typical week, however, more than half of teens and virtually all parents desire more frequent family dinners.

Family Dinners and Teen Smoking, Drinking, Drug Use
Frequent family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking and drug use. Compared to teens who have 5 or more family dinners per week, those who have 2 or less are:

  • 3 times likelier to try marijuana
  • 2 ½ times likelier to smoke cigarettes
  • More than 1 ½ times likelier to drink alcohol

Teens who dine infrequently with their families are also likelier to have friends who use drugs. Compared to teens who have 5 or more family dinners per week, those who have 2 or less are:

  • 3 times likelier to report that half or more of their friends use marijuana
  • 2 times as likely to know a friend or classmate who uses Ecstasy
  • Nearly 80% likelier to know a friend or classmate who abuses prescription drugs
  • 40% likelier to know a friend or classmate who uses acid, cocaine or heroin

“There are no silver bullets – unfortunately, the tragedy of a child’s substance abuse can strike any family; but one factor that does more to reduce teens’ substance abuse risk than almost any other is parental engagement, and one of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “If I could wave a magic wand to make a dent in the substance abuse problem, I would make sure that every child in America had dinner with his or her parents at least 5 times a week,” said Califano. “There is no more important thing a parent can do. Parental engagement in children's lives is the key to ridding our nation of the scourge of substance abuse.”

“The benefits that come from family dining are endless,” states Larry W. Jones, President, TV Land and Nick at Nite. “This study, once again, shows us the emotional and social benefits that come from taking the time to sit down and share a meal as a family. From lessening the risk of substance abuse to increasing the likelihood of academic success, this is a serious wake-up call to parents across the country to make the time and to stay engaged.”

Family Dinners and Academic Performance
Teens who have frequent family dinners are likelier to get better grades in schooland higher academic performance is associated with lower substance abuse risk.

Teens who have dinner with their families 7 times a week are almost 40% likelier to say they receive mostly A’s and B’s in school compared to teens who have dinner with their families 2 or fewer times a week, and this is associated with lower substance abuse risk: Teens who typically receive grades of C or lower are at twice the risk of substance abuse as those receiving all A’s or mostly A’s and B’s.

What’s Going On At The Family Dinner Table
This report’s findings paint a picture of infrequent family dinners as lower-quality dinners: Compared to teens who have 5 or more family dinners per week, teens who have fewer than 3 family dinners per week are likelier to say that they dine with the television on, their families talk little during dinner and their family dinners do not last long enough.

  • Teens who dine with their families fewer than 3 times per week are 32% likelier to dine with the television on, compared to teens who have 5-7 family dinners per week
  • Teens who dine with their families fewer than 3 times per week are almost 1 ½ times likelier to say there is not much talking at the dinner table, compared to teens who have 5-7 family dinners per week
  • Teens who dine with their families fewer than 3 times per week are more than 2 times as likely to say that their family dinners do not last long enough, compared to teens who have 5-7 family dinners per week

Topics that most teens say they discuss at the family table include: school and sports (86%), friends and social activities (76%) current events (63%) and family issues or problems (58%). Topics that most teens wish they could honestly discuss with their parents during mealtime include: religious matters (51%) and curfews (51%). A substantial number of teens would also like to talk with their parents about peer pressure (44%), dating (42%) and substance abuse (38%).

Family Relationships and Mealtime
More than 1 in 4 teens live in households where families share frequent dinners, say their parents are very or fairly proud of them, have low levels of tension or stress at home and have a parent in whom they can confide. These teens are at half the substance abuse risk of the average teen. 

  • Nearly 70% of teens who eat dinner with their parents 5-7 times a week say that their parents are very proud of them, compared to 48% of teens who have family dinners 2 times a week or less
  • Nearly 1 in 5 teens who have family dinners 2 times a week or less report that there is a great deal of tension or stress at home between family members, compared to 7% of teens who have at least 5 family dinners per week
  • Teens who have frequent family dinners are likelier than those who have infrequent family dinners to say they would turn to one or both of their parents if they had a serious problem. Teens who can confide in their parents are at much lower risk for substance abuse than teens who would confide in another adult or who have no adult in whom to confide

“This nation’s drug problem is all about kids. A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so. America’s drug problem is not going to be solved in courtrooms, legislative hearing rooms or classrooms, by judges, politicians or teachers. It will be solved in living rooms and dining rooms and across kitchen tables – by parents and families,” Califano concluded.

QEV Analytics conducted The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse X: Teen and Parents for CASA from April 7 through June 4. The firm interviewed at home by telephone 1,000 teens (503 boys, 497 girls) and 829 parents (282 of whom were parents of interviewed teens). Sampling error is +/-3.1% for teens, +/-3.4% for parents.

CASA and TV Land and Nick at Nite's Family Table: Share More Than Meals – Classic TV’s very first pro-social initiative – are encouraging Americans to commit to eating dinner together as a family on Family Day – A Day To Eat Dinner With Your ChildrenTM on Monday, September 26, 2005.

CASA developed Family Day 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.

TV Land & Nick at Nite’s Family Table: Share More Than Meals was created by the two networks in 2003 and seeks to remind its viewers about the emotional and social benefits that come from taking the time to sit down and share with one another. Through a series of promotional spots – which both networks air in regular rotation daily – TV Land and Nick at Nite have committed over $11 million in on-air time annually to encourage viewers to experience the benefits of dining together.

TV Land, Nick at Nite and all related logos and titles are trademarks of Viacom International, Inc.

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 is the creator of the nationwide Family Day initiative – the fourth Monday in September – that promotes parental engagement. For more information visit www.CASAColumbia.org.

*The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse 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."

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