The Significance of Family Meals

Even back one generation, sitting down for dinner as a family was pretty much a given. It is a telling sign of the times to find out how quickly this ritual is being swallowed up by the demands of our current culture. Many American families, if statistics are to believed, do sit down and eat together. According to the Journal of American Medicine, 43 percent of American families eat together every day. In a CBS poll conducted a year ago, 74 per cent of those surveyed said they eat together most of the time. What has changed dramatically is what we are doing while we eat. In the not so distant past, the family sat down at a table with no distractions. Now, all forms of electronic devices have invaded the dinner hour. According to the poll, 33 percent of viewers say the TV is always on during their dinner, 27 percent say it’s on half the time and 5 percent say that family members are texting, e-mailing or using their cell phones throughout the meal.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University is a national organization founded in 1992 by Former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. The mission of this multidisciplinary group is to research and develop proven, effective ways to prevent and treat substance abuse and addiction including alcohol and nicotine as well as performance-enhancing and prescription drugs. They have undertaken a series of studies about the relationship of family dinners to teen substance use and abuse.

Their latest finding compared teens who have frequent family dinners (defined as five to seven per week) with those who have infrequent family dinners (specifically, fewer than three per week). Teens who have dinner less than three times per week are at far greater risk of substance abuse of all kinds–these kids are almost four times likelier to use tobacco; more than twice as likely to use alcohol; two-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana; and almost four times likelier to say they expect to try drugs in the future. We can expect further studies to come out of this great organization in the future.



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