SOURCE: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University

September 20, 2007 00:00 ET

CASA* Report Finds Teens Likelier to Abuse Prescription Drugs, Use Illegal Drugs, Smoke, Drink When Family Dinners Infrequent

Impact of Frequent Family Dinners Strongest for Youngest Teens

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - September 20, 2007) - Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five or more per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (two or fewer) are three and a half times likelier to have abused prescription drugs; three and a half times likelier to have used an illegal drug other than marijuana or prescription drugs; three times likelier to have used marijuana; more than two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco; and one and a half times likelier to have drunk alcohol, according to a new report by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University and sponsored by The Safeway Foundation.

The report, "The Importance of Family Dinners IV," also reveals that compared to 12- and 13-year olds who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are:

--  Six times likelier to have used marijuana;
--  More than four and a half times likelier to have used tobacco; and
--  More than two and a half times likelier to have used alcohol.
    

Among 14- and 15-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are three times likelier to have used marijuana and two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco compared to those who have frequent family dinners. Among 16- and 17-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to have used marijuana and almost twice as likely to have used tobacco compared to those who have frequent family dinners.

"This year's survey finds the impact of frequent family dinners is strongest amongst 12- and 13-year olds, though the relationship holds true at every age," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA's chairman and president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. "The evidence is on the table. Teens who have frequent family dinners are less likely to smoke, drink, abuse prescription drugs and use illegal drugs."

The CASA report found 59 percent of teens report having dinner with their families at least five times a week, the same proportion CASA has observed over the past several years. Consistent with what teens report, 59 percent of parents say they have frequent family dinners. Findings in "The Importance of Family Dinners IV" draw from CASA's 12th annual back-to-school survey, released this past August.

Family Dining and Current Teen Substance Use

The report also found that teens who have frequent family dinners are less likely to have used alcohol, gotten drunk, used tobacco or used marijuana in the past 30 days.

In the past 30 days, compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are:

--  More than twice as likely to have used marijuana;
--  Almost twice as likely to have drunk alcohol;
--  Almost twice as likely to have used tobacco; and
--  More than one and a half times likelier to have gotten drunk.
    

What They Want at the Table is You

This year's report finds that 84 percent of teens prefer to have dinner with their families rather than eat alone. Eighty-one percent of 16- and 17-year olds also prefer to dine with their families.

Of those teens who have less than three family dinners per week, 62 percent say they would prefer to eat with their families compared to 92 percent of teens who have at least five family dinners per week.

The report also found that more than half of teens (59 percent) are eating dinner at home by themselves or with someone else when they are not eating dinner with their parents. Eighty-three percent of parents say they do not worry where their teen is and what he or she is doing on those evenings when their teen does not have dinner with them.

Family Dining and Academic Performance

Teens who have dinner with their families five or more times a week are likelier to say that they receive mostly As and Bs in school compared to teens who have dinner with their families fewer than three times a week (64 percent vs. 49 percent). Teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week are more than twice as likely to do poorly in school.

Other Findings

--  Compared to teens who have five or more family dinners per week, those
    who have two or less are more than one and a half times likelier to say
    that they can buy marijuana within a day and almost twice as likely to say
    they can buy it within an hour.
--  Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, teens who have
    infrequent family dinners are almost three times likelier to say that
    future drug use is very or somewhat likely.
--  Thirteen percent of teens say that no one is telling them that they
    should not use illegal drugs.
--  Nearly half of parents and teens (47 percent of each) agree that the
    best time for teens to talk to their parents about something important to
    them is during dinner or after dinner.
--  Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have two
    or less per week are three times likelier to report that half or more of
    their friends use marijuana and are twice as likely to say half or more of
    their friends drink alcohol.
    

"Of course there are no silver bullets; the tragedy of teen substance abuse can strike any family. But parental engagement is key to reducing teen substance abuse risk and one of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens' lives is by having frequent family dinners. Parents need to know that what their kids really want at the dinner table is them," said Elizabeth Planet, CASA's Director of Special Projects and project manager for the survey.

QEV Analytics conducted The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XII: Teens and Parents from April 2 to May 13, 2007. The firm interviewed at home by telephone a national random sample of 1,063 12- to 17-year olds (554 boys, 509 girls) and 550 parents (53 percent of whom were parents of teens surveyed). Sampling error is +/- three percent for teens, +/- four percent for parents.

CASA created Family Day - A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children™ in 2001 as a national effort to promote parental engagement as a simple, effective way to reduce youth substance abuse and raise healthier children. For more information, visit www.CASAFamilyDay.org.

CASA is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA has issued 64 reports and white papers, published one book, conducted demonstration projects focused on children, families and schools at 201 sites in 73 cities and counties in 29 states plus Washington, DC and a Native American tribal reservation, and has been evaluating the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment in a variety of programs and drug courts. For more information visit www.casacolumbia.org.

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