Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. SD 1.3 Religious attendance and religiosity

04/01/1997

Research relating religion to childrens day-to-day conduct suggests that teens who are religious are more likely to avoid high-risk behaviors.3

The percentage of 12th grade students who report weekly religious attendance has declined from 41 percent in 1976 to 32 percent in 1992, where it has remained constant through 1995 (see Figure SD 1.3). During that same time period, the percentage who report that religion plays a very important role in their lives stayed fairly constant, between 26 percent and 31 percent.

Differences by Age. Data for students in the 8th and 10th grades, available since 1991, indicate that younger teens are more likely to report weekly religious attendance, but are not more likely to report that religion plays a very important role in their lives (see Tables SD 1.3.A and SD 1.3.B). In 1995, 42 percent of 8th graders reported weekly religious attendance versus 37 percent of 10th grade and 32 percent of 12th grade students. During that same year, the percentage reporting that religion played an important role in their lives was about 30 percent for all three grades.

Differences by Gender. Females in all grades are somewhat more likely than males to report weekly religious attendance and that religion plays a very important role in their lives, though in the past two years this difference has not exceeded five percentage points.

Differences by Race. In recent years, black students have been more likely than white students to report weekly religious attendance. The attendance gap grows somewhat larger in the upper grades, to 8 percentage points among 12th graders in 1995 (40 percent for black students versus 32 percent for white students). The difference between black and white students is even more pronounced in their views on the importance of religion in their lives. Black students across grades have consistently been about twice as likely as their white counterparts to report that religion plays a very important role in their lives. For example, in 1995, 52 percent of black 12th graders reported that religion played such a role, compared to 26 percent of white 12th grade students.
 

Figure SD 1.3  
Religious Attendance and Religiosity Among High School Seniors: 1976-1995 

SD1_3.GIF

Source: Johnston, L.D., Bachman, J.G. , OMalley, P.M. Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire responses from the nations high school seniors. 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. 12th grade 1976, 1981, and 1986 based on questionnaire forms 1-5; and, 12th grade 1991-1995 based on questionnaire forms 1-6.
 
 

Table SD 1.3.A  
Percentage of 8th, 10th, and 12th Graders Who Report Regular (Weekly) Religious Attendance: Selected Years, 1976-1995

                       
       
1976
1981
1986
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
       
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                       
8th Grade
Total
--
--
--
46
43
42
42
42
  Gender
    Male  
--
--
--
44
41
39
40
40
    Female  
--
--
--
49
46
45
45
45
  Race
    White  
--
--
--
48
44
44
44
43
    Black  
--
--
--
47
46
42
42
46
                       
10th Grade
Total
--
--
--
38
39
40
37
37
  Gender
    Male  
--
--
--
35
37
37
35
35
    Female  
--
--
--
42
41
43
39
40
  Race
    White  
--
--
--
39
39
41
37
37
    Black  
--
--
--
44
45
44
41
44
                       
12th Grade
Total
41
40
34
31
32
32
32
32
  Gender
    Male  
36
36
31
28
31
29
30
30
    Female  
46
44
38
34
34
34
35
35
  Race
    White  
42
41
35
31
32
31
32
32
    Black  
37
40
36
38
35
35
39
40
                       
Source: Johnston, L.D., Bachman, J.G., OMalley, P. M. "Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire Responses from the Nations High School Seniors." 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Data for 8th and 10th grade 1991-1995, from unpublished questionnaire responses, forms 1 and 2; 12th grade 1976, 1981, and 1986 based on questionnaire forms 1-5; and, 12th grade 1991-1995 based on questionnaire forms 1-6.

 
 

Table SD 1.3.B  
Percentage of 8th, 10th, and 12th Graders Who Report that Religion Plays a "Very Important" Role in Their Lives: Selected Years, 1976-1995

                       
       
1976
1981
1986
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
       
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                       
8th Grade
Total
--
--
--
29
27
30
30
30
  Gender
    Male  
--
--
--
27
26
27
29
28
    Female  
--
--
--
31
28
32
32
32
  Race
    White  
--
--
--
26
23
26
26
26
    Black  
--
--
--
46
46
42
47
45
                       
10th Grade
Total
--
--
--
29
28
29
28
29
  Gender
    Male  
--
--
--
26
26
26
24
26
    Female  
--
--
--
31
29
31
32
31
  Race
    White  
--
--
--
24
24
26
24
25
    Black  
--
--
--
52
50
50
48
49
                       
12th Grade
Total
29
31
26
28
29
29
30
30
  Gender
    Male  
24
25
23
24
26
26
27
27
    Female  
34
36
30
31
33
33
32
33
  Race
    White  
26
27
23
24
25
24
26
26
    Black  
51
51
51
50
51
51
49
52
                       
Source: Johnston, L.D., Bachman, J.G. , OMalley, P.M. "Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire Responses from the Nations High School Seniors." 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Data for 8th and 10th grade 1991-1995, from unpublished questionnaire responses, forms 1 and 2; 12th grade 1976, 1981, and 1986 based on questionnaire forms 1-5; and, 12th grade 1991-1995 based on questionnaire forms 1-6.

 

3 National Commission on Children. 1991. Beyond Rhetoric: A New American Agenda for Children and Families. Final Report of the National Commission on Children, page 352. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO.
 
 

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