Study Reveals Positive Impact of Religion on Children

March 21, 2004

Source: The Washington Post

On March 21, 2004 The Washington Post reported, "Late last year, a commission convened by Dartmouth Medical School, among others, studied years of research on kids, including brain-imaging studies, and concluded that young people who are religious are better off in significant ways than their secular peers. They are less likely than nonbelievers to smoke and drink and more likely to eat well; less likely to commit crimes and more likely to wear seat belts; less likely to be depressed and more likely to be satisfied with their families and school. 'Religion has a unique net effect on adolescents above and beyond factors like race, parental education and family income,' says Brad Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist and panel member. Poor children who are religious will do better than poor children who are not religious, he adds -- and in some cases better than nonreligious middle-class children. Meanwhile, a social groundswell may be underway, as a larger proportion of teenagers than a decade ago say religion is important. In 2001, about three out of five teenagers said religion was "pretty important" or "very important" to them -- a significant increase, according to Child Trends, a research organization that analyzes federal data. The biggest jump occurred not among poor and unambitious teenagers -- the stereotyped believers -- but among young achievers who anticipated finishing four years of college... One factor contributing to the uptick in youth religiosity, some researchers suspect, is the rise in the number of immigrant families entering the United States. As sisters Amanda and Amy Katru, Christians from India, will tell you, a church like Glen Mar can feel like a little piece of home in a strange land... Glen Mar 'gives us the confidence that comes with being a part of the Christian community,' Amy says. 'Here we are not the only ones who are weird.'"