Magazine article USA TODAY

Teen Churchgoers More Likely to Abstain

Magazine article USA TODAY

Teen Churchgoers More Likely to Abstain

Article excerpt

High levels of church attendance in the ninth grade may protect some African-American teenagers from getting involved in risky behaviors throughout the rest of their high school career, suggests Kenneth Steinman, assistant professor of health behavior and health promotion at Ohio State University, Columbus. After talking with some 700 black teen every year for four years, Steinman and other researchers found that more religious activity in the ninth grade predicted smaller increases in marijuana use among boys and cigarette use among girls.

They also found that, during high school, larger decreases in religious activity, such as attending church services, were significantly associated with greater increases in alcohol use among boys and sexual intercourse among girls.

"Sex and alcohol use are often emphatically forbidden by denominations common to African-American communities," says Steinman. "Consistent with previous research, we found that religious activity is associated with less sexual behavior and less substance abuse among teens." His study, however, improved on earlier work by following adolescents over time and testing if less religious activity led to an increase in risk behaviors, or if the reverse were true--that engaging in these behaviors led to a decline in church participation. …

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