Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Summary of Research Studies Specific to the Low-Income Population


The primary research questions about religiosity and parenting among the low-income population in some cases mirror the questions guiding the broader literature and in other cases depart in meaningful ways. Studies of the general population focus primarily on the influence of religious involvement and affiliation on specific parenting practices and levels of parental involvement. The main point of departure in the low-income research is an increased focus on parental cognitive and socioemotional resources as a hypothesized pathway between religiosity and parenting outcomes.

The research questions guiding the literature on religiosity and parenting for the low-income population fall into two broad categories. The first set of questions is related to whether religiosity is linked directly to the outcome of interest. The second set of questions examines the pathways through which religiosity influences outcomes.

Using the report search methodology outlined in Section 1, we identified 13 relevant quantitative studies that examined relationships between religiosity and parenting outcomes in the low-income population. Of these studies, 8 use nationally representative data sets, whereas the remaining 6 studies use convenience samples. Only three of the studies that use national data primarily focus on the relationship between religiosity and parenting outcomes. The other five studies examine religiosity along with other effects, but they did produce relevant findings. Almost all of the smaller-scale, convenience sample studies focus primarily on relationships between religiosity and parenting. Several of the smaller-scale studies that use convenience samples also include a qualitative component.

National data sources include FFCW, WCF, the National Survey of America's Families (NSAF), and the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH).

Most studies, particularly those using national data, use one or two single-item measures of religiositytypically religious attendance and/or religious affiliation. The smaller-scale studies are more likely to use further developed, multi-item measures of religiosity, including scales that explore specific dimensions of religiosity (e.g., ideological, intellectual, experiential, ritualistic, and consequential). One study (Strayhorn, Weidman, & Larson, 1990) that focused solely on testing measures of religiosity in a low-income population found two distinct empirical dimensions: one related to private aspects of religion and the other related to public aspects. The national studies are also more likely to address questions about associations between religiosity and parenting outcomes, whereas several of the smaller-scale studies test mediating variables and theoretical pathways between religiosity and parenting outcomes.

The low-income research explores a broad range of parenting outcomes, including paternal/maternal involvement, parental engagement, parenting style typology (e.g., authoritative), spanking, parental investment, parental attitudes, perceived demands, and stress. These studies explore a broader range of outcomes than the general population studies and more frequently examine specific dimensions of parenting.

Almost all of the studies address only a subset of parenting outcomes and many do so for a specific subgroup, such as single mothers or nonresident fathers. However, some of the more recent work, primarily using the FFCW and WCF data, has started to simultaneously examine religiosity, multiple parenting outcomes, and relevant mediators using a more comprehensive set of controls.

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