“During a week, how many evening meals do you sit down and eat together as a family?”
Here’s how readers responded:
57 Percent Virtually every night
1 Percent Once a week
8 Percent 2-3 times a week
34 Percent 4-5 times a week
As the research continues to mount on the importance of eating together as a family, we thought we’d get a sense of how well our readers are doing. We recognize that with such hectic lives, sitting down together for each evening meal presents some very real challenges. We aren’t here to preach, but to remind each of us the positive impact that effort can bring into the lives of our children and to our families. With the start of a new school year upon us, perhaps it is a good time to evaluate and re-evaluate our schedules and to make time for this important family activity.
Here’s some of the research:
Family Meal Time
Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five or more per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are twice as likely to use tobacco or marijuana; more than one and a half times likelier to use alcohol; and twice as likely to expect to try drugs in the future. “The Importance of Family Dinners V,” The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), Columbia University, 2009 http://www.casacolumbia.org/templates/PressReleases.aspx?articleid=567&zoneid=85
Adolescent girls who reported having more frequent family meals and a positive atmosphere during those meals were less likely to have eating disorders. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Marla E. Eisenberg, Jayne A. Fulkerson, Mary Story, and Nicole I. Larson, “Family Meals and Disordered Eating in Adolescents,” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 162 (1) (2008): 17-22 http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/162/1/17
Consistent family meals were associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using marijuana; with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts; and with better grades. Marla E. Eisenberg, Rachel E. Olson, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Mary Story and Linda H. Bearinger, “Correlations between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-being Among Adolescents,” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 158 (2004): 792-796. http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/158/8/792
Children who regularly dine with their families eat better. They consume more fruits and vegetables, less fat, fewer fried foods, more vitamins and fewer sodas. “Mathew W. Gillman, et al., “Family Dinner and Diet Quality Among Older Children and Adolescents,” Archives of Family Medicine, 9 (2000): 235-240.
Teens that have less than three family meals per week are 1.5 times more likely to have friends who smoke marijuana and drink. They are about 1.5 times more likely to have friends who abuse prescription drugs, and 1.25 times more likely to have friends abusing cocaine, meth, heroin, and ecstasy. Seventy-two percent of teens think that eating dinner or other meals with their parents regularly is important. “The Importance of Family Dinners VI,” The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), Columbia University, 2010. http://www.casacolumbia.org/templates/PressReleases.aspx?articleid=606&zoneid=79