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


Studies have found a positive association between parental religiosity (church attendance and other measures mentioned above) and increased parental involvement, warmth, and positive reinforcement (Pearce & Axinn, 1998; King, 2003). Gunnoe et al. (1999) found that greater maternal religiosity was associated with authoritative (versus authoritarian) parenting styles.[2] Research shows these positive associations to be mediated through marital quality and co-parenting skills, suggesting the presence of religious carryover effects that improve marital quality and thus positively influence parent-child relationships (Brody, Stoneman, Flor, & McCrary, 1994; Brody, Stoneman, & Flor, 1996). Attitudes about parental and gender roles also mediate the relationship between religiosity and parental involvement. For example, Kings (2003) findings indicate that religious fathers who are more likely to agree that men should share household and child-care tasks (i.e., equalitarian attitudes) are more likely to be involved with their children.

The evidence for how religious orientation (which typically considers affiliation and/or level of conservatism) influences parenting outcomes is more mixed. The findings from Wilcox (1998) and Bartkowski and Xu (2000) demonstrate that parenting styles of conservative Protestants are uniquely characterized by both strict discipline and an unusually warm and expressive style of parent-child interaction (Wilcox, 1998, p. 796). There are virtually no studies, however, that link affiliation and parenting outcomes of religious parents outside the conservative Protestant tradition. This lack highlights the difficulty of drawing direct links between specific religious beliefs and specific parenting outcomes (Mahoney, Pargament, Tarakeshwar, & Swank, 2001).

In addition, preliminary work has started to address the question of whether religiosity is a proxy for an underlying conventional orientation that makes people more likely to value membership in religious communities and prioritize familial involvement (Wilcox, 2002). In a study of fathers, Wilcox tests whether the effect of religiosity on parental involvement is an artifact of a conventional disposition or orientation found in men; that is, the type of men who are more conventional in their patterns of civic engagement and who exhibit broader social integration may be more likely to be religious and involved in their childrens lives. Wilcox uses a measure of fathers level of civic engagement as a proxy for conventionality. The findings show that civic engagement does, in fact, mediate the relationship between religiosity and parental involvement but that religious involvement also has an independent effect on paternal involvement.

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