Religious Youths Less Likely at Risk; Research Links Beliefs with behavior.(NATION)(CULTURE, ET CETERA)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 18, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Religious Youths Less Likely at Risk; Research Links Beliefs with behavior.(NATION)(CULTURE, ET CETERA)


Byline: Josh Earl, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Forget detention. The best way to keep teenagers out of trouble may be to send them to church, a study shows.

The report, released today by the National Study of Youth and Religion, compared the religious beliefs and behaviors of 2,478 12th-graders. Researchers asked seniors how often they attended religious services, how much importance they gave religion, how many years they had participated in religious youth groups and what their religious preference was.

"The report demonstrates that religion among U.S. 12th-graders is positively related to participation in constructive youth activities," says Christian Smith, the principal investigator in the study. "Those who participate in religious activities seem to be less likely to be involved in many delinquent and risk behaviors."

Mr. Smith's team of researchers analyzed data from Monitoring the Future, a survey administered yearly to a nationally representative group of students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades.

The report said 61 percent of non-churchgoing seniors had used illegal drugs in the previous 12 months. Among students who frequently attended religious services, the number dropped to 39 percent. Frequent churchgoers also were less likely to sell drugs or have drugs offered to them.

Alcohol and tobacco use also was lower among religious youths. Of those who reported going to church at least once a week, 11.9 percent said they smoked regularly, compared with 30.1 percent among non-churchgoers.

Almost half of those who attend services weekly say they never have been drunk, while about 28 percent of those who never go to church make the same claim. Seniors who rate religion as "very important" in their lives are less than half as likely to intoxicate themselves as those who say religion is not important.

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