Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Findings for Adults

07/10/2009

With low-income adults, there are mixed findings. A mothers involvement in a religious community, as measured by church attendance, is a protective factor against child maltreatment. Without this involvement, low-income mothers have a twofold increase in risk for child maltreatment. However, when examining the findings from longitudinal data, the deterrent effect of religiosity on crime diminishes as the participants become older. For example, low-income delinquent youth who reported greater church attendance are less likely to report criminal involvement 13 years after the first data collection; however, the older participants became, the more the effect of church attendance diminished. Hence, 21 years after the first data collection, there is no significant relationship between church attendance and criminal involvement.

Analyses are also conducted to estimate longer-term offender patterns, and the findings suggest that church attendance is not related to a pattern of sustained desistance from crime. According to qualitative data collected from adults, many individuals believe that their spirituality was critical to their desistence efforts. These findings highlight the advantage of incorporating quantitative and qualitative data into understanding how religiosity operates in the lives of the low-income population. Although the quantitative longitudinal data do not show significant main effects of religiosity on life-course patterns of crime, the in-depth qualitative data show religiosity can serve as a blueprint for change and a guide for how to access pro-social peers. Qualitative data can also highlight how other factors, such as unemployment, can derail the progress associated with religiosity.

  1. Are the religious dimensions of perceived closeness to God and religious salience associated with crime and violence outcomes?

As indicated in the previous section, three of the studies include measures of religiosity that are two-item measures. In addition to church attendance, the other measures of religiosity include whether one is a church member, how close one feels to God, and how important religion is. Interestingly, the study that includes a measure of church membership does not incorporate this measure into the multivariate analysis. The findings for the perceived closeness to God and religious salience are highlighted in Table 7-2.

Table 7-2.
Relationship between Perceived Closeness to God and Church Members and Crime-Related Outcomes in the Low-Income Population
Crime and Violence Outcomes Effects of Perceived Closeness to God
Self-reported adult crime
(Giordano et al., 2008)
There is a significant inverse association with outcome at first follow-up and no association with outcome at second follow-up.
Pattern of offending
(Giordano et al., 2008)
Perceived closeness to God has no association with increased odds of sustaining a crime-free life in adulthood.
  Effects of Church Salience
Nondrug illegal activities
(Johnson et al., 2000b)
Church salience has no association with nondrug illegal activities in adolescence.

Most of the studies show nonsignificant findings of religious beliefs and church salience on crime and violence outcomes; however, the small number of studies limits the ability to draw firm conclusions about the relationship between these religious dimensions and crime/violence outcomes.

Most of the studies show nonsignificant findings of religious beliefs and church salience on crime and violence outcomes; however, the small number of studies limits the ability to draw firm conclusions about the relationship between these religious dimensions and crime/violence outcomes. One of the conclusions drawn by Johnson and colleagues (2000b) is that church attendance and church salience have distinct associations with crime and that research exploring religiosity and delinquency should include more than one measure of religiosity.

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