Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Findings about Religiosity and Parenting Outcomes


Table 3-1 presents the findings that mainly address the questions of whether religiosity is related to parenting outcomes in the low-income population and to what extent religiosity, independent of other factors, drives associations found in the research.

Two of the larger-scale studies focus on fathers, one larger study focuses on mothers and fathers, and one small qualitative study focuses solely on mothers. At first glance, it may appear that there is little research on this topic, but it is important to bear in mind that other studies (discussed subsequently) address questions about the direct effect of religiosity on parenting and then examine potential mediators of the association. Additional studies also address these questions but do so indirectly, examining religiosity alongside other relevant factors.

In general, the existing research suggests that greater parental religiosity is positively associated with parenting outcomes in low-income families. Also, in the studies that control for parental pro-social orientation or social integration, religiosity is generally shown to have an independent (albeit small) effect.

Table 3-1.
General Findings about Religiosity and Parenting Outcomes
Study/Data Source Relevant Findings
Religious participation, religious affiliation, and engagement with children among fathers experiencing the birth of a new child (Petts, 2007)/FFCW1 Data
  • Religious attendance has significant positive effect on paternal engagement, especially for first-time fathers.
  • The effects persist even after controlling for marital status, resident status, relationship transition, pro-fathering attitudes, and first-time fatherhood.
  • Affiliation has no effect.
Good dads: Religion, civic engagement, & paternal involvement in low-income communities (Wilcox, 2001)/NSFH2 Data
  • Religious involvement has a significant positive effect on a fathers likelihood of dining frequently with children and participating in youth-related activities.
  • Effects are only significant for low-income men.
  • Broader social integration (measured by civic engagement) attenuates effect, but independent religious effect persists.
Family structure and children's health and behavior data from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families (Wen, 2008)
  • Parental participation in religious work is significantly positively associated with child health and behavior.
  • Participation in secular volunteer work is not significantly associated.
A comparative study of values and attitudes of inner-city and middle-class postpartum women (Minton et al., 2004)
  • Middle-class mothers rank intrapersonal and personal values highest as the values they would like to develop in themselves, whereas low-income mothers rank social and religious goals more highly.
  1. FFCW = Fragile Families and Child Well-Being
  2. NSFH = National Survey of Families and Households

There is also evidence to suggest that the independent relationship between religiosity and certain parenting outcomes is unique to low-income parents (Wilcox, 2001). Finally, qualitative work by Minton, Shell, and Solomon (2004) raises the possibility that social and religious values influence the formulation of parenting values differentially for low-income (versus middle-income) parents.

The second set of studies examines a broader array of religiosity measures and process variables by asking what are some of the specific factors about religiosity and the potential mediators that influence parenting outcomes. These studies explore both institutional and individualized aspects of religiosity. Primary research questions include:

  1. To what extent do parental resources, such as social networks and cognitive or socioemotional adjustment, mediate the relationship between religiosity and parenting outcomes?
  2. To what extent do religious ideologies and other institutional aspects of religion (e.g., time spent in structured, family-centric religious activities) influence parenting outcomes?

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