Family Dinners Associated With Lower Risk of Substance Use

Family Dinners Associated With Lower Risk of Substance Use

Family Dinners Associated With Lower Risk of Substance Use

Family Dinners Associated With Lower Risk of Substance UseFamily dinners have been replaced with substitutes, like zipping into the drive-thru to grab a burger on the way to basketball practice. Parents may even provide a meal at home, where each family member loads up a plate before retreating to different corners of the house to watch television or peruse a magazine.

These efforts, while sometimes necessary for busy family schedules, may not be helping children in certain areas of life. Research has shown that family dinners can positively influence a range of child and teen experiences, from preventing eating disorders to boosting academic achievement.

A recent study reveals that family dinners can also lower a teen’s risk of engaging in substance abuse. When families eat dinner together, say the researchers, activities like alcohol consumption and drug use are less likely to occur.

The research was conducted by an organization called OneHope, in celebration of the International Day Against Drug Use, which took place June 26. OneHope provided its SpiritualState of the World’s Children report, recognizing that the teen experience has become a global experience. The norm for teens has begun to cross political and cultural borders.

The findings show that one way to reduce substance use may be to encourage more family time together, with one simple solution focused on a return to the family dinner table.

Returning to the dinner table is a challenge for many families. With both parents often working full time and kids competing for dinner hour with sports, music and dance commitments, a family meal may be nearly out of reach.

In addition, the lure of the drive-thru may be too tempting for most families. When time is short and convenience is the priority, families may find it easier to cram dinner and conversation into the commute.

However, experts recommend that even a few family meals a week can make a big difference. If dinnertime is too crazy, make breakfast or a weekend brunch your special family tradition. The important aspect is the family time spent together, talking and connecting.

OneHope President Rob Hoskins notes that strengthening the family is the key to helping teens make good choices. Spending time with family protects teens from negative consequences that come with poor choices.

OneHope’s study included approximately 152,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 19, across 44 countries. The findings illustrated that when a positive family experience was reported, there was less substance abuse in the teens.

The research provided by OneHope also notes that one in every 10 teens reports having used one or more types of illegal drugs in the previous three months. In addition, 21 percent admit to having been legally drunk.

The findings also illustrated that across the globe, academic drive was associated with lower levels of substance use. In addition, those with the highest levels of media exposure reported the most substance use.

While the research does not establish this extended association, the findings may all be part of the same cause. It may be that family dinners, academic drive and lower media exposure are all associated with lower substance abuse because of one common denominator: parental involvement.

The study does not attempt to answer these questions, but further research could determine whether parents who limit media exposure, encourage academic excellence and invest large amounts of time with their children in their teen years have kids who are less involved in substance use.

The information is helpful for educating parents about the types of family environments that discourage substance use. Parents should be aware that spending time with their kids is a preventive tool against substance use and that clear discussions about the risks associated with substance use are a healthy addition to family conversation.

The family dinner table provides not only a setting for family discussions about topics like substance use, but it also creates a place in which parents and teens have a regular check-in. If something is amiss, the family dinner is a place in which parents might detect potential problems and concerns can be addressed.

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