Do Family Dinners Reduce the Risk of Early Adolescent Substance Abuse? A Propensity Score Analysis


adolescent health, adolescent substance use, family dinners, matching, propensity score


The risks of early adolescent substance use on health and well-being are well documented. In recent years, several experts have claimed that a simple preventive measure for these behaviors is for families to share evening meals. In this study, we use data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Study of Youth (n = 5,419) to estimate propensity score models designed to match on a set of covariates and predict early adolescent substance use frequency and initiation.The results indicate that family dinners are not generally associated with alcohol or cigarette use or with drug use initiation. However, a continuous measure of family dinners is modestly associated with marijuana frequency, thus suggesting a potential causal impact. These results show that family dinners may help prevent one form of substance use in the short term but do not generally affect substance use initiation or alcohol and cigarette use.

Original Publication Citation

Hoffmann, John P., and Elizabeth Warnick. 2013. “Do Family Dinners Reduce the Risk of Early Adolescent Substance Use? A Propensity Score Analysis.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 54(3): 335-352.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Health and Social Behavior




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor