The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has documented the importance of family dinners and their correlation with lessened drug and alcohol abuse.
Their findings revealed that the more often children and teens eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, consume alcohol or use drugs. Compared to children who have fewer than three family dinners per week, children who have frequent family dinners are:
• At 70 percent lower risk for substance abuse.
• Half as likely to try cigarettes.
• Half as likely to be daily cigarette smokers.
• Half as likely to try marijuana.
• One third less likely to try alcohol.
• Half as likely to get drunk monthly.
• Likely to get better grades in school.
• Less likely to have friends who drink alcohol and use marijuana.
• 40 percent more likely to say future drug use will never happen.
If there were a magic wand that could be waved to reverse the trend of substance abuse in youth, a key ingredient would be to make sure every child had dinner with his or her parents at least five times a week. Setting aside a minimum of a half hour—an hour being better—would produce noticeable results.