Reprinted with permission of Charisma News Services.

Churchgoing eighth graders were most satisfied with themselves.

Youngsters who feel good about themselves are typically churchgoers. According to the Associated Press (AP), a recent study concludes that teen-agers who participate in religious activities have higher self-esteem than those who don't.

The authors of the revealing study, released last week at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, believe the findings indicate that churches and religious institutions teach teen-agers how to have positive images of themselves.

Conducted by the University of Michigan in 1999, the survey aimed to determine how religious involvement influences eighth graders' self-esteem. The survey, given to 1,261 eighth graders -- 570 males, 691 females; 1,011 whites, 260 blacks -- included questions that asked participants how involved they were in religious activities. The largest percentage of teens who participated in religious activities reported the highest self-esteem, the AP reported.

"We found that people who rated themselves as being 'very religious' answered each of the four positive indicators of self-esteem in a more positive manner," said Rebecca Nolan, one of the psychologists who did the study, United Press International (UPI) reported. "This means they feel that they are persons of worth who can do things as well as others and that they are satisfied with themselves."

Nolan called the eight grade "a pivotal period" when the students' self-esteem tends to be lower than at any other time. "At the eighth grade, their parents' opinion and the effect of their religious training tends to give them an edge over kids who do not have this foundation," she said, UPI reported. "And religion is one of these pillars on which they can stand."

Nolan believes the other pillar is parental guidance, affection and the bonds that children have with their families. "Parents tell them that they are intelligent and can compete with other kids, and religion tells them that someone will be there to help them with the hard parts," she noted.

Although the influence of religion on self-esteem makes less of a difference as children continue to age, it still has long-term benefits. "The stronger you can lay this foundation, and the younger the age at which it's laid, the better it is for the child as he or she continues to age, because everyone is going to hit the hard parts of life," she said. "If you have a strong inner core about how you feel about yourself, you can make it though these hard parts."

Monsignor Ronald Jameson, rector of St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Washington D.C., isn't surprised by the survey's discoveries. He noted that young people who attend religious services and are involved in parish life have the highest self-esteem. "A strong family relationship is No. 1," he told UPI, "and No. 2 is coming from a family that is most strongly involved in parish life."

Meanwhile, in Germany officials are concerned about the spread of satanism among disaffected, often unemployed, young people, after three teens recently jumped to their deaths from a bridge. Their bodies were daubed with pentangle symbols, "The (London) Times" reported. In less than two years, there have been 15 occult-linked suicides in eastern Germany.

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