Purpose: To examine 5-year longitudinal associations between family meal patterns and subsequent substance use in adolescents.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusions: 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.