Family, Religious Practice & Adolescent Well-Being

Together, the intact family structure and frequent religious attendance appear to bolster adolescent well-being. Teens from intact families who frequently attend religious services are less likely to exhibit delinquent behavior and tend to fare better in school.

Based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth–a nationally representative study of over 14,000 adolescents–researchers found that teens from intact families with frequent religious attendance:
  • Were least likely to have ever gotten into a fight: 27.1 percent reported having ever gotten into a fight, compared to (a) 32.1 percent of their peers from intact families with infrequent religious attendance, (b) 34.3 percent from nonintact families with frequent religious attendance, and (c) 43.5 percent from non-intact families with infrequent religious attendance.1
  • Were least likely to have ever used hard drugs: 8.5 percent reported ever having used hard drugs, compared to (a) 9.5 percent of their peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, (b) 14.6 percent from intact families with low to no religious attendance, and (c) 20.1 percent from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance.2
  • Were least likely to have ever committed a theft of $50 or more: 11.7 percent reported ever having committed a theft of $50 or more, compared to (a) 15.3 percent of their peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance, (b) 15.8 percent from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, and (c) 23.5 percent from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance.3
  • Were least likely to have ever shoplifted: 6.1 percent reported ever having shoplifted, compared to (a) 7.9 percent of their peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, (b) 9.9 percent from intact families with low to no religious attendance, and (c) 12.3 percent from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance.4
  • Were least likely to have ever run away: 5.2 percent reported having ever run away from home, compared to (a) 8.1 percent of their peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance, (b) 8.5 percent from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, and (c) 13.1 percent from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance.5
  • Averaged the fewest sexual partners (girls): Girls from intact families who frequently attended religious services averaged 0.47 sexual partners, compare to (a) 0.93 partners among peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, (b) 1.14 partners among peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance, and (c) 1.55 partners among peers from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance.6
  • Averaged the fewest sexual partners (boys): Boys from intact families who frequently attended religious services averaged 1.04 sexual partners, compared to (a) 2.03 partners among peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance, (b) 3.14 partners among peers from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance, and (c) 3.92 partners among peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance.7
  • Were least likely to have ever been drunk: 22.4 percent reported having ever been drunk, compared to (a) 24.5 percent of their peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, (b) 33.4 percent from intact families with low to no religious attendance, and (c) 41.2 percent from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance.8
  • Were the least likely to have been expelled or suspended from school: 17.3 percent were ever expelled or suspended from school, compared to (a) 25.5 percent of their peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance, (b) 32.5 percent from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, and (c) 46.7 percent from non-intact families with low or no religious attendance.9
  • Earned the highest average GPA: Youth from intact families who frequently attended religious services averaged a 2.94 GPA, compared to (a) 2.75 among peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance, (b) 2.72 among peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, and (c) 2.48 among peers from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance.10

Footnotes

  1. Patrick F. Fagan, “A Portrait of Family and Religion in America: Key Outcomes for the Common Good,” Heritage Foundation (December 2006), http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2010/pdf/Map_of_ Religion.pdf.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.