September 24, 2002
Religion and spirituality are shaping and influencing our young people. Christian Smith,
PhD, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill says, most people
are not surprised to hear than religious teenagers get into less trouble than their nonreligious
peers, “but religion as a factor in adolescents’ lives hasn’t been studied much before.”
Smith’s study, a part of the four-year national Study of Youth and Religion, analyzed
data from more than 2,400 high school seniors who identified themselves as Baptist, Protestant,
Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, other or “Not religious.” The young people were categorized by
how often they attend religious services, how important religion is to them, and how long they
had participated in a church youth program.
Smith says, “One of the most interesting observations is that the religious correlation
doesn’t seem to kick in until it reaches the level of the most religious kids.” The findings show
that the most religious 12th graders are less likely to skip school, less likely to be suspended or
expelled, and less likely to smoke, and less likely to use, sell, or be offered drugs. The results
show that religious kids volunteer more, participate more in sports and in student government.