Kids who attend church are far less likely to get divorced later in life, have better skills to overcome poverty and do better in college than kids who did not attend church.
compiles independent findings by more than 100 social scientists who have published their own studies over the last two decades establishing the amazing effect that attending church has on kids’ lives.
Dr. Fagan is the director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion and Senior Fellow at the Marriage and Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C.
“Social life that includes or is built around church functions,” writes Dr. Fagan. “Children’s involvement in church activities are strong predictors of academic achievement as well. Children who have greater religious socialization also have increased levels of educational attainment,” according to Diane R. Brown and Lawrence E. Gary in their article “Religious Socialization and Educational Attainment among African Americans: An Empirical Assessment,” published in 1991 in The Journal of Negro Education.
Children of the Land: Adversity and Success in Rural America, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000. In that same book, “a study of Iowa families,” writes Dr. Fagan, “discovered that youth who in eighth grade are religiously involved will have higher academic competence in the twelfth grade.”
Christian Smith, director of the National Study of Youth and Religion and Professor of Sociology at Notre Dame Univeristy, drawing on work done by Chandra Muller, Christopher G. Ellison and Mark D. Regnerus, who that the influence of church attendance and favorable perceptions of religion result in "positive school attitudes" which are evident from childhood, through late adolescence and into college.
Frequent religious attendance tends to increase students’ total years of schooling. Students who attend church weekly while growing up have significantly more years of total schooling by their early 30s than peers who do not attend church at all.
The benefits that students receive from weekly religious attendance are equivalent to the benefits that come from a mother who has three years of extra education and a father with four years of extra education.
Religious practice seems to benefit the education of the poor even more than it does that of advantaged children. An analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that church attendance strengthens educational progress among children in high-poverty neighborhoods.
For the poor, the positive effect of religious practice is significant because it is one of the few robust positive influences in their lives. As the level of poverty rises within the neighborhood, the relationship between church attendance and being on-track in school becomes more positive, indicating what Dr. Fagan calls a “uniquely protective influence of church attendance” among youth in more impoverished neighborhoods when compared with their devout counterparts in more prosperous neighborhoods
“Spiritual and religious involvement affects educational outcomes more than income does,” wrotes Fagan. “One analysis of tenth grade students found that, for both black and white students, the impact of pro-social values was stronger than the effect of socioeconomic status on reading and math proficiency (44 percent greater for white students and 51 percent greater for black students). That study also showed that holding religious values was associated with higher math scores for black students.
“Youth who considered religion to be fairly important or very important in their lives were less likely to engage in risky behavior. For many of these youth, church attendance reinforces messages about working hard and staying out of trouble, orients youth toward a positive future, and builds a transferable skill-set of commitments and routines.”
Higher levels of marital happiness and stability;
Stronger parent-child relationships;
Greater educational aspirations and attainment, especially among the poor;
Higher levels of good work habits;
Greater longevity and physical health;
Higher levels of well-being and happiness;
Higher recovery rates from addictions to alcohol or drugs;
Higher levels of self-control, self-esteem, and coping skills;
Higher rates of charitable donations and volunteering; and
Higher levels of community cohesion and social support for those in need.
Lower divorce rates:
Lower cohabitation rates;
Lower rates of out-of-wedlock births;
Lower levels of teen sexual activity;
Less abuse of alcohol and drugs;
Lower rates of suicide, depression, and suicide ideation;
Lower levels of many infectious diseases;
Less juvenile crime;
Less violent crime; and
Less domestic violence.
No other dimension of life in America does more to promote the well-being and soundness of the nation’s civil society than citizens’ regular attendance at church, says Dr. Fagan.
“As George Washington asserted,” he concludes, “the success of the republic depends on the practice of religion by its citizens. These findings from 21st century social science support his observation.”