We’ve often pointed to the evidence that having dinner together as a family appears to have a protective effect on young people when it comes to substance misuse. However, that’s now being challenged by researchers from the University of Minnesota who say that once you control for other factors dinner may not be all that important.
“Meals may afford a regular and positive context for parents to connect with children emotionally, to monitor their social and academic activities, and to convey values and expectations. This is what we suspect is driving any causal relationship between family dinners and child well being. But, family dinners also appear to be part and parcel of a broader package of practices, routines, and rituals that reflect parenting beliefs and priorities, and it’s unclear how well family dinners would work unbundled from the rest of that package.”
Does that mean we should alter our advice that eating regularly as a family is an important way of preventing drug misuse? I don’t think so as it may well be that the rituals that the researchers talk about are in part developed around the family dinner table.