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J Adolesc Health. 2008 Aug;43(2):151-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.01.019. Epub 2008 Apr 11.

Family meals and substance use: is there a long-term protective association?

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  • 1Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55454, USA. eisen012@umn.edu



To examine 5-year longitudinal associations between family meal patterns and subsequent substance use in adolescents.


A total of 806 Minnesota adolescents were surveyed in public schools in 1998-1999 (mean age, 12.8 years) and again by mail in 2003-2004 (mean age, 17.2 years) as part of a longitudinal population-based study. Logistic regression was used to estimate the odds of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use at follow-up for adolescents reporting regular family meals at baseline compared with those without regular family meals, adjusting for family connectedness and prior substance use.


Family meal frequency at baseline was associated with significantly lower odds of cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and marijuana use at follow-up among female adolescents, even after adjusting for baseline substance use and additional covariates. Family meals were not associated with use of any substance at follow-up for male adolescents after adjusting for baseline use.


Results from this study suggest that regular family meals in adolescence may have a long-term protective association with the development of substance use over 5 years among females. Parents should be encouraged to establish a pattern of regular family meals, as this activity may have long lasting benefits.

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