- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

A report released yesterday by the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Car-

olina at Chapel Hill may lend credence to the well-worn adage, “The family that prays together stays together.”

Adolescents ages 12 to 14 reared in religious households are more likely than peers from nonreligious families to admire Mom and Dad, to not run away from home, to eat dinner with the folks and to have parents involved in their social lives, the report said.

“There is a consistent association across a variety of measures that more religiously active families with early adolescents in the household exhibit signs of stronger family relationships,” said Christian Smith, study director and report co-author.

“The parents get along with the teens better, the teens more likely look up to their parents and the families do positive activities together,” said Mr. Smith, also a sociology professor at Chapel Hill.

The four-year project, funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc., began in August 2001 to research the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of American adolescents.

Since then, the NSYR has released reports looking at religion’s relationship with issues such as drug and alcohol use, athletic involvement, crime and violence, school behavior and self-image.

The latest publication, “Family Religious Involvement and the Quality of Family Relationships for Early Adolescents,” draws conclusions from data collected in the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

Sample findings, comparing families sharing religious activities such as attending worship services or praying together five to seven times a week with those not religiously active, include:

• Religious: More than 70 percent of youth want to be like their parents.

• Nonreligious: Only about half of youth want to be like their parents.

• Religious: Nearly 90 percent of youth enjoy spending time with their parents.

• Nonreligious: Roughly 70 percent of youth like spending time with Dad, with 77 percent agreeing about Mom.

• Religious: Almost 85 percent of youth note their mothers are very supportive of them. More than 75 percent indicate the same about their fathers.

• Nonreligious: About 69 percent of youth report very supportive mothers. A shade over 60 percent view their fathers that way.

• Religious: Roughly 61 percent of youth report eating dinner together with their families every night. And about 19 percent say they have daily fun with their families, including playing a game, swimming or going to a sporting event.

• Nonreligious: Nearly 38 percent of youth eat dinner together with their families each night. Only about 5 percent say they have daily fun.

While the data indicate that a faithful family seems to experience better household relations, Mr. Smith argues against pinpointing religion as the one-stop cure-all for family ills.

“It would be an oversimplification to conclude necessarily that religion is the most important factor in shaping quality of family relationships, or that religion was the sole cause of improved family relationships,” he said.

Other factors to consider, he said, involve economic hardship, mental and physical illnesses, family tragedies and personality types.

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