From time to time, studies pop up which support the ridiculous assertions by atheists such as Christopher Hitchens that somehow religion is responsible for all of the evils in the world. Many of the posts on this weblog have demonstrated that such a view point is unsupported and that many of the studies start with poor assumptions. (See, as an example of our review of one study, Societal ills, absolute morality and charity and Does religion cause societal ills?)
Now the Family Research Council has released a brand new study by Nicholas Zill, Ph.D. and Philip Fletcher, Ph.D.entitled Intact Family and Religious Participation Are Associated with Fewer Developmental Problems in School-Age Children.
The study begins:
New analyses of data from a large-scale federal survey of child health and development show that children and adolescents are less likely to exhibit problems in school or at home if they live with both their biological parents and attend religious services regularly. For example, young people not living with both parents and not attending services regularly are five times more likely to have repeated a grade in school than those living with both parents and attending religious services weekly or monthly. Thirty-four percent of the former group had repeated a grade, compared with six percent of the latter. And 53 percent of the former group – versus 21 percent of the latter – had their parents contacted by the school because of conduct or achievement problems the youth was having at school. These differences hold up after controlling for family income and poverty, low parent education levels, and race and ethnicity.
An intact two-parent family and regular church attendance are each associated with fewer problem behaviors, more positive social development, and fewer parental concerns about the child’s learning and achievement. Taken together, the two home-environment factors have an additive relationship with child well-being. That is, children who live in an intact family and attend religious services regularly generally come out best on child development measures, while children who do neither come out worst. Children with one factor in their favor, but not the other, fall in between, scoring less well than those who have both factors going for them, but better than those who have neither factor in their favor.
Grade repetition, school contacts, and parental concern about child achievement are more strongly linked to a lack of an intact two-parent family than to a lack of religious participation. For problem behavior and social development, the strength of the association with religious attendance is about equal to that with family integrity. An intact two-parent family and regular religious participation are also associated with the parent reporting less parenting stress and a better parent-child relationship. These family functioning differences may help to explain the parallel differences in children’s well-being.
The study that can be found by following the link above contains many graphs which reveal the correlations that have been found in this area of societal concern.
Of course, as with all studies, there needs to be a deeper evaluation of the data. There may be assumptions in the data that are unwarranted and lead to wrong conclusions. Additional unidentified factors are always a concern. Also, it is important to separate out Christianity from all religion because there is a category error in trying to group all religion together in a single group since religions are so diverse and believe many different things. However, there is a rather clear connection in the data that demonstrates that in most cases a religious upbringing in a two parent family is good and valuable for children. The idea that religion is somehow evil becomes less and less plausible every day.