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Sit down, shape up
According to a National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse 2012 report, only 57 percent of teens reported having dinner with their families at least five times a week.
According to DivorceStatistics.info, the rate of divorce for the first marriage is only 41 percent. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of every three children live in biologically fatherless homes.
Over the last decade, these numbers have been fairly constant. In fact, divorce is lower now than in the 1990s. But should we just live with them just because of their consistency? Of course not.
Look at teenage pregnancy. Again, to be fair, teenage pregnancy has dropped recently. However, according to teenhelp.com, America has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the “Western Industrialized world.” About 820,000 teens get pregnant each year, which means 34 percent of teens will have a baby before they are 20 years old. And 79 percent of these teens are unmarried, and 80 percent of these pregnancies are unintended.
The U.S. spends $7 billion each year on teen pregnancies, with a whopping 80 percent of unmarried teen mothers ending up on welfare. And that is within the first year when it comes to half of unmarried teen moms.
Additionally, only a third of teenage mothers complete high school and receive their diplomas, and by age 30, only 1.5 percent of women who had pregnancies as a teenager have a college degree.
And what of their children? Well, the daughters of teen moms are 22 percent more likely to become teen moms themselves, and the sons have a 13 percent greater chance of ending up in prison.
In 2002, a Department of Justice survey revealed that of 7,000 inmates, 39 percent didn’t have a father, and infant mortality rates are 1.8 times higher for infants of unmarried mothers.
So, where did the family go, and what good happens at the dinner table?
About 92 percent of teens that have frequent family dinners are 1.5 times more likely to say their parents know what’s really going on in their lives. So?
Well, let’s look at the uninvolved families. About 21 percent are 1.5 times more likely to have used marijuana, and 40 percent are 1.5 times more likely to have used alcohol.
Then there is also the fact that 59 percent of teens that have frequent family dinners are also 1.5 times more likely to have low stress.
Of the teens who have frequent family dinners with their families, 49 percent are 1.5 times more likely to have an excellent relationship with their mother, and 45 percent with their father.
And these excellent relationships, touching back on the father-absent homes, are important. Teens who have a “less than very good” relationship with their father are four times more likely to use marijuana, twice as likely to use alcohol, and 2.5 times as likely to have used tobacco.
In an age where the media normalizes teen pregnancy and single moms — just look at ‘16 and Pregnant’ — it is up to the parents to step in and shape their children.
And it all starts at the dinner table.
Andrew Freeman is a pre-journalism freshman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.