New Report Says Teens Who Have Family Dinners Together Less Likely To Engage In Risky Behavior

By Shani Collins

ABC News reports that teens who have several dinners each week are less likely to engage in risky behavior.

The study was conducted by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. The center reports: “Compared to teens who ate with their families five to seven times a week, teenagers who had fewer than three family dinners a week were almost four times more likely to try tobacco, more than twice as likely to use alcohol and 2.5 times more likely to use marijuana.”

William Doughtery, a University of Minnesota professor of family social science said, “Family meals are the strongest factor that we’ve come across in any activity that families do. It really tops them all as a predictor and contributor of a wide range of positive behavior.” The benefits of family dinners include fostering a sense of belonging, security, and stability among teens. The family dinners also allow teens to better communicate with their parents. Doughtery continues, “So much of the rest of the day, kids, especially teens, are spending with their peers by themselves. They have a chance for talking and connecting at family dinners.”

Other studies have shown that having several family dinners throughout the week reduced instances of purging, binge-eating and frequent dieting among adolescent females. Also studies have shown that children who ate breakfast with their families at least four times a week were more likely to eat fruit and vegetables.

For parents looking to connect with their teenages, Doughtery said, “I recommend one family dinner a week. The more you do it, the better. One is better than zero. It’s quality, not quantity.” He also encouraged parents to turn off their cell-phones, and avoid using the opportunity as a time scold children:

“Make it a connecting meal,” said Doughtery. “It’s the quality of the connecting. Just try to have a good conversation. Don’t grill them about their grades.”

Shani K. Collins is a freelance writer completing doctoral studies in social work at the University of Alabama. You may visit her at

Shani’s article was originally published on

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