Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Lessons from Fragile Families

07/10/2009

The disconnected and sometimes conflicting findings of the five recent Fragile Families studies highlight the major existing gaps in this research (see Table 3-4). The findings from only two of the five studies show that religiosity has an effect on parenting. The findings from Carlson et al. (2005) show a small, positive effect of religiosity, but the study only examines couples that are romantically involved (i.e., it excludes single parents that are in a nonromantic, co-parenting relationship involving a nonresident parent). The findings from Petts (2007) also indicate a small positive effect for fathers, but the study does not control for relationship quality between parents. The three other studies examine family structure effects and parents relationship status and quality. None of these three studies shows religiosity to be associated with the parenting outcomes analyzed.

Moreover, the two studies showing a religiosity effect focus on parental engagement and spanking as outcome measures, whereas the other studies use a wider range of measures, including parental involvement (different measures for nonresident vs. resident parents), parental investments, levels of aggravation, and various types of parental support (to promote emotional, social and cognitive competencies in children). Studies also differ in whether they use maternal reports of paternal involvement or father self-reports. This difference also corresponds with varied results.

Before empirical research can address these gaps, researchers need greater conceptualization of the potential connections between religiosity and parentingthat simultaneously considers family context, relevant gender differences, and hypothesized pathways.

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