Posted October 7, 2003
Benefits for Teens in Religiously Involved FamiliesTaken from the CARA Report, Summer 2003
In their 1997 book The Search for Common Ground: What Unites and Divides Catholic Americans, sociologist James D. Davidson and colleagues observed that parents have responsibility for their children’s social, academic, athletic, and religious formation. Many concentrate on the first three areas and take a rather hands-off approach to the religious dimension — often with disappointing results. Prof. Davidson’s thesis is confirmed in a new study by Dr. Christian Smith and Phillip Kim of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Family Religious Involvement and the Quality of Family Relationships for Early Adolescents is the fourth of a series of reports as part of the National Study of Youth and Religion, funded by Lilly Endowment. Their work is based on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth of 1997, a nationally representative survey of the transition from school to work of U.S. youth. Almost 9,000 youth and 8,000 parents or parent figures completed the survey and 92 percent of eligible respondents were interviewed. Almost 8,000 parents or parent figures completed a separate survey, one parent per youth respondent. The present report focuses on children aged 12 to 14.
According to the report 11 percent of these youth belong to families that are heavily involved (five to seven days per week) in some form of religious activity during the week (such as attending church, praying or reading scriptures together). These youth are significantly more likely than youth whose families do not engage in religious activities throughout the week (36 percent of all youth) to have stronger relationships with their parents according to multiple measures, to participate in family activities such as eating dinner together, and to not run away from home.
The benefits of family religious participation extend to those who are religiously involved less often. Youth with a parent attending worship services at least once a week are significantly more likely than those whose parents do not attend services this often to:
Have mothers who both praise and are strict with them.
Have mothers who know most things about their close friends’ parents and who know who they are with and when they are not at home.
Have fathers whom they aspire to be like and of whom they think highly.
Have fathers who are supportive of them and don’t tend to abruptly cancel plans with them.
Have father who know at least some things about their close friends, about their close friends’ parents, about whom they interact with when not at home, and about their life in school.
Eat dinner regularly with their families and not run away from home.
The authors observe that “It might also be that youth and families that already are committed to high-quality family relationships choose to become more religiously involved as one strategy to pursue them.” They go on to say “What is clear in this report’s findings however, is that, for whatever reasons, early adolescents living in religiously involved families in the United States appear more likely to enjoy stronger, more positive relationships in their families than do adolescents in families tat are not religiously active.”
From: Family Religious Involvement and the Quality of Family Relationships for Early Adolescents, A Research Report of the National Study of Youth and Religious, 2003, by Dr. Christian Smith and Phillip Kim, is available for $4 from the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, National Study of Youth and Religion, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB #3057, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3057 (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).