St. Charles Herald-Guide

Eating together has its benefits

By Ed Thomas - July 7, 2006

(AgapePress) - According to one national organization's research, eating dinner together as a family is not only good for bonding between family members but also cuts down on teens' risks of alcohol and drug addiction.

The Columbia University-based National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has made the link between eating dinner as a family and teens' alcohol and drug addiction risk through analysis of eight years of results from an annual survey of teens. Center president Joseph Califano says the questions on the yearly survey of 12- to 17-year-olds have pointed to a clear pattern since the initial year of the study.
"One of the things we've noticed in our surveys, beginning in 1996, was that the more often kids have dinner with their parents, the less likely those kids are to smoke, drink, or use drugs," Califano explains. Meanwhile, he notes, the survey has shown that "kids who have dinner with their parents less than three times a week are much likelier to smoke, to drink, or to use drugs than kids who have dinner with their parents five to seven times a week."

Those teens who ate with their families five to seven times a week received the maximum benefit, the Center spokesman points out. He says this group enjoyed relief from the primary risk factors of stress, boredom, and pressure from academic demands in school.

"And we find that the family dinner is on the wholesome side of every one of those pressures," Califano emphasizes. Eating together as a family, he asserts, "helps to reduce stress, it helps reduce boredom, and it certainly relates to a kid's academic performance."

Because of the these findings, members of a supermarket industry group called the Food Marketing Institute are helping to promote the Center's "Family Day" on September 25. This initiative will encourage parents across the nation to eat dinner with their children on that date and to be aware of the benefits of dining as a family on a regular basis.