Survey: Family dinners curb teen obesity and drug abuse

The Wall Street Journal reported a Columbia University-affiliated organization found in a survey that teenagers who ate dinner with their families were less likely to abuse drugs

The Journal reports:

The role of family dinners in preventing substance abuse has become a surprisingly fertile field of research. For a decade, an organization affiliated with Columbia University has reported on the result of asking teenagers about how often they eat dinner with their families, as well as their use of, and attitudes toward, drugs, tobacco and alcohol. The surveys’ consistent finding, that the most frequent family diners are the least frequent drug abusers, has been trumpeted in many news articles touting the benefits of family meals.

The finding was satisfying to family-values advocates and, in the view of many, consistent with common sense. The idea that family dinners protect teens “conjures up Norman Rockwell images of families seated around the table together,” said Daniel P. Miller, assistant professor of human behavior at the Boston University School of Social Work. “It plays into what we think a family ought to look like.”

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Times reports that families “who frequently ate dinner in the kitchen or dining room had significantly lower body mass indices for adults and children,” compared with families that dined in front of the television, for instance.

The Times says, “where and how you eat,” along with what you eat, appear “to affect obesity,” according to a study published in the journal Obesity that looked “at the effects of family dinner rituals.”

The paper says that researchers asked 190 parents and 148 children “in grades three to six in the Chicago area” about their food habits. One possible reason for the change is that “meals at the table were less distracted or more supervised,” the researchers say.

Here are some of my other blogs on the topic of family meals: