Family dinners make a difference

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

From 2003 to 2008 research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has consistently found that children who have frequent family dinners are less likely to use marijuana, tobacco and drink alcohol.

CASA research reveals that compared to children who have frequent family dinners (five or more per week), children who have infrequent family dinners (less than three per week) are two and a half times likelier to have used marijuana and tobacco, and one and a half times likelier to have used alcohol.

Teens who have used substances by frequency of family dinners

(Average over 6 years: 2003-2008)

0-2 Dinners/Week 5-7 Dinners/Week

Ever used alcohol 48% 30%

Ever used tobacco 29% 13%

Ever used marijuana 27% 11%

"If you asked me based on CASA's 16 years of intensive examination of substance abuse and addiction in our nation what's the most effective thing we can do to curb this scourge and protect our children, I would say parental engagement. And there is no more effective example of this than frequent family dinners," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA's chairman and president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

"Years of surveying teens have consistently shown that the more often they have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink and use drugs."

This year CASA introduced a major call to action for parents--the Family Day STAR Pledge--which encourages parents all across the nation to take back their seats at the dinner table. A Family Day STAR commits to:

S - Spend time with my kids by having dinner together.

T - Talk to them about their friends, interests and the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

A - Answer their questions and listen to what they say.

R - Recognize that I have the power to help keep my kids substance-free!

CASA created a Family Dinner Kit that includes placemats and menu cards that children can decorate, plus recipes, and conversation starter questions that can be downloaded for free and used during family meals.

The STAR pledge and Family Dinner Kit are available at