If you close your eyes and picture the perfect family, what do you see? Is there a happily married couple with a few children? Does everyone smile and get along, and treat one another with love and respect? Are family dinners a time of relaxation and warm cooperation where each family member tells the others about his or her day, and then everyone else responds with positive feedback?
“The American Dream” is a happy family that communicates lovingly without disagreement.
Is there a single family in the United States that functions this way? Are family dinners calm and cheery? It seems the reality is closer to either silent dinners or times filled with arguments, if family members even eat together anymore.
The fast pace of our society poses the question: what impact is family life having on a teenager’s behavioral choices? Are teens choosing to experiment with cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs because of issues at home?
Research teams at Columbia University and the Boston University School of Social Work wanted to find out more.
Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, also known as CASAColumbia, has been investigating the correlation between regular family dinners and teenage drug use since 2003. Eight reports have been published, with the most recent findings coming out in September 2012.
The 2012 CASAColumbia study gathered data from 1,003 teens, between the ages of 12 and 17, via telephone surveys. Questions were asked to find out how often teens eat dinner with their families, how they feel about nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs, if they have experimented with any substances, and if so, how often do they use alcohol and drugs?
CASAColumbia claims that the more frequent a family eats dinner together, the less frequent the teenagers in the family will abuse various substances.
0-2 Family Dinners Each Week:
The most recent data shows that, of the teens who partake in family dinners 0-2 times per week, 60% say that their parents know a “great deal/fair amount” about their lives, and 40% say that their parents know “little or nothing” about their lives. Of those same teens, 36% say that they have a great relationship with their mother and 28% claim a great relationship with their father. As for their view of substance abuse, 14% believe that it is okay for teenagers to smoke marijuana and to get drunk.
5-7 Family Dinners Each Week:
92% of these teens say that their parents know a “great deal/fair amount” about them, and only 8% say that their parents know “little or nothing” about their lives. 49% report a great relationship with their mother, and 45% have a great relationship with their father. In this group of teens who regularly eat dinner with family members, only 5% believe that it is okay for teenagers to smoke marijuana, and 4% believe that it is okay to get drunk.
The Study’s Blind Spots:
In a study that wants to understand the correlation between family dinners and substance use, it would seem more informative to investigate each possible number of weekly dinners, and to ask more questions about opinions on drugs and alcohol.
Boston University of Social Work
Daniel P. Miller, assistant professor of human behavior at Boston University, offers his view on the topic by saying that family dinners, “conjures up Norman Rockwell images of families seated around the table together. It plays into what we think a family ought to look like.”
Instead of simply asking teens questions and gauging drug use on family dinners, Miller and his team wanted to find out if other factors played a role in teen substance use. Do family income, parents’ work schedules, and other time spent together have an influence on a teen’s behavioral choices?
Miller and his team used data from a national study of 21,000 teens across the United States that tracked their behavior for a decade. Without direct data on drug and alcohol use, the information yielded results finding that more frequent meals as a family did not have any direct effect on academic or behavioral patterns in the teens surveyed. Miller concluded by saying that, “They [family dinners] might not be important in the way we typically talk about them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have all sorts of benefits.”
Family Dinners are Not Enough to Prevent Teenage Drug Addiction!
The relationships teenagers have are important, and influential in their decision-making.
Would you like to be more involved in your teen’s life, or stop suspected substance abuse?
Contact the team at Sovereign Health Group of California now to find out how. (866) 819-0427.
Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado