Study Links Family Dinners with Teen Behavior

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Can having dinner with your children make them better people?

Researchers from Columbia University found that teenagers who don't sit down for family dinners are four times more likely to use tobacco, twice as likely to drink alcohol and two and a half times as likely to smoke marijuana.

Experts say the family time gives teens a sense of belonging and security. It also giving them the chance to communicate with their parents.

"Family meals are the strongest factor that we've come across in any activity that families do," said William Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota. "It really tops them all as a predictor and contributor of a wide range of positive behavior."

Three-quarters of teens who reported having dinner with their family at least once a week said the interaction and the togetherness were the best part of the meal.

Doherty, who did not participate in the study, told ABC News he had this advice for parents and caregivers who have given up on family dinners -- start on a Sunday night.

"I recommend starting one a week. The more you do it, the better," he said. "One is better than zero. It's quality, not quantity."

"Make it a connecting meal. It's the quality of the connecting. Just try to have a good conversation," he added.

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