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Religion and Delinquency: A Systematic Review of the Literature Byron R. Johnson Professor of Sociology Director, Institute for Studies of Religion Director, Program on Prosocial Behavior Baylor University Waco, Texas Coordinating Council for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Washington, DC December 5, 2008
Religion & Health Outcomes • • Hypertension Mortality Depression Suicide Promiscuous sexual behavior Drug & alcohol use Crime & Delinquency
Figure 1. Research Examining the Relationship between Religion and Health Outcomes (2002)
Figure 2. Research Examining the Relationship between Religion & Health Outcomes (2002 -2008)
Religion & Prosocial Outcomes • • Well-Being Hope/Purpose/Meaning in Life Self-Esteem Educational Attainment
Figure 3. Research Examining the Relationship between Religion Prosocial Outcomes (2002)
Figure 4. Research Examining the Relationship between Religion & Prosocial Outcomes (2002 -08)
Meta-Analysis of Research on the Impact of Religion on Delinquency Very beneficial Beneficial Mixed Harmful Very harmful NA Total of 263 studies reviewed 68 51 48 40 38 22 10 4 6 0 Drugs N=101 0 0 Delinquency N=84 1 4 5 0 Alcohol N=78 0 4
Studying Organic Religion Review Summary • This review provides • overwhelming evidence that higher levels of religious involvement and practices make for an important protective factor that buffers or insulates individuals from deleterious outcomes. This review of studies on organic religion documents that religious commitment or practices make for an important factor promoting an array of pro-social behaviors and thus enhancing various beneficial outcomes.
A Study of the Cumulative Advantage of Religiosity Sung Joon Jang and Byron R. Johnson Department of Sociology Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) Baylor University
• Does early involvement in religion matter? – Pre-teen involvement in religious activities – Religious involvement after childhood – Drug use during adolescence – At-risk drinking/smoking in young adulthood • What does scientific research say about long-term effects of religious involvement?
• The more religious involvement, the less likely to use drugs, licit and illicit • How so? – Increased control – Decreased deviant learning – Decreased strain & distress – Enhanced positive self-concept – Perhaps uniquely religious influence?
• Cumulative disadvantage in criminology – Delinquency Negative structural consequences (e. g. , labeling, negative life events, etc. ) Crime – A negative causal loop • Cumulative advantage of prosocial behavior – Religious involvement Positive consequences (e. g. , “social capital”) Prosocial behaviors
Explaining the Positive Consequences of Religiosity • Religiosity Protective factors – Social control theory • Attachment to parents, commitment to education, etc. • Religiosity Risk factors – Social learning theory • Association with drug-using peers – Social strain theory • Negative life events – Symbolic interactionist theory • Reflected appraisal of self as “trouble maker”
Data • National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS: 88) – Nationally representative sample (n = 12, 144) – Four follow-ups (1990, 1992, 1994, and 2000) • • Time 1 (Wave 1): 8 th grade, average = 14. 4 Time 2 (Wave 2): 10 th grade, average = 16. 4 Time 3 (Wave 3): 12 th grade, average = 18. 4 Time 4 (Wave 5): 8 yrs after high sch, average = 26. 4 – Data analysis in two parts
Theoretical Model of Drug Use
Estimated Model of Drug Use
Findings • Early involvement in religion during preteen years tends to decrease: – use of licit & illicit drugs during adolescence – binge drinking & heavy smoking in young adulthood • Empirical evidence of cumulative advantage of religiosity as pre-teen religiosity increases protective factors and decreases risk factors of drug use.
Summary and Conclusions Early involvement in religion (i. e. , pre-teen religiosity) tends to have long-term, prosocial influence on an individual’s life. Prosocial influence of religion is developmental in that it tends to be not only direct but also indirect (specifically, increasing other prosocial factors and decreasing antisocial factors). Religiosity and drug use tends to have reciprocal (i. e. , twoway) relationships over time. A key question for future research: Would religious involvement, whether sudden or gradual, be able to break the cycle of drug use and its risk factors?
Figure 1. Structural Equation Model of Youth’s Drug Use during Adolescence & Young Adulthood (n = 1, 377) * p <. 05 (one-tailed test), + p <. 05 (two-tailed test), f = fixed coefficient, smc = squared multiple correlation (i. e. , R 2)
Religion, Prosocial Learning, Self Control, and Delinquency Scott A. Desmond Purdue University Jeffery T. Ulmer Penn State University Christopher D. Bader Baylor University
Why Might Religiosity Inhibit Delinquency? • Social Learning: Religious observance and taking religious teaching seriously involves learning prosocial norms and values. • Self Control: Religious observance may build self control.
This Study’s Goals • We examine the degree to which religiosity, and membership in particular religious traditions, increases self control. • We assess the effects of religiosity, religious denominations, and self control on delinquency, and the extent to which religiosity has an indirect effect on delinquency through self control. • Finally, we investigate whether the effect of self control on delinquency varies depending on adolescents’ religiosity. • We use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health).
Prior Theory and Research • Concern with self control has a long history in criminology, but very few studies simultaneously examine religiosity, self control, and crime/delinquency. • The consensus of prior research indicates that religiosity has a moderate but consistent effect on delinquency, particularly in stronger “moral communities, ” and particularly for drug/alcohol use. • Research has shown that religiosity’s effects are partially, but not fully, indirect, through social learning and conventional social bonds.
What else can help explain religiosity’s ability to insulate youths from delinquency? • Self control is a good candidate. Every major religion tries to promote self control in the face of behavior seen as wrong. • A number of studies: a) endorse the concept of self control, b) suggest that it is malleable after late childhood, and c) suggest that factors other than the parenting practices identified by Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) affect it.
• “Self control is itself a product of social learning, and therefore any variation that it accounts for ultimately depends on social learning. ” –Ronald Akers (1998, p. 162). • Religious socialization and exposure to religious activities would seem to be a potentially important social learning process by which self control could be developed and increased. Religion should thus increase self control.
New Developments in Thinking about Self Control • Psychologists have developed a “muscle” or “strength” model of self control – Self control is a cognitive resource that is temporarily depleted whenever it is exercised, just as a muscle is temporarily fatigued when it is used. This model also implies that self control should grow stronger with regular “exercise. ”
Religion and Self Control • “Religious organizations, as an external source of discipline, can be very helpful to people’s personal self control endeavors. ” Geyer and Baumeister (2005, p. 418). • Religion can: – Provide motivation for self control – Foster self monitoring – Help people manage desires – Help people cope with emotional distress (which can trigger self control failures)
Does the Effect of Self Control on Delinquency Differ by Degree of Religiosity? • Self control might have a stronger negative effect on delinquency among the more religious, since it is in situations where one must choose whether to engage in a deviant act, in the face of one’s own moral beliefs, that self control must be mobilized. No prohibiting beliefs, no need for self control. (Wikstrom and Treiber 2007)
Religiosity and the Dynamics of Delinquency • Jeffery T. Ulmer • Penn State University • Scott A. Desmond • Purdue University • Sung Joon Jang • Baylor University • Byron R. Johnson • Baylor University • Christopher D. Bader • Baylor University
This Study’s Goals • We examine the degree to which religiosity discourages the initiation and persistence of delinquency, as indicated by marijuana use. • We assess the degree to which any effects of religiosity on patterns of marijuana use are meditated by (and therefore attributable to) nonreligious factors such as peers, parental and school attachment, self control, and strain/negative emotionality. • We use data from the first three waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health).
Why would religiosity discourage initiation and persistence in marijuana use? Why would it encourage desistence even if someone begins using? • Religiosity might discourage friendships with marijuana using friends (or the influence of such friends on one’s own behavior). • Religiosity might foster prosocial, conventional attachments and activities. • Religiosity might foster self control (a la Desmond, Ulmer, and Bader) • Religiosity might buffer individuals from strain and negative emotionality, and/or discourage coping with strain/negative emotions with drug use.
• Religion might exert prosocial influences in its own right, influences that are not attributable to non-religious social processes (Pargament et al. 2005). • Religious experience and practice might thus exert unique influences discouraging forms of delinquency like marijuana use.
Prior Research: Key studies • In general, little research on religiosity and desistence delinquency/drug use. • Doris Chu (2007): Using NYS data, she found that frequency of church attendance was associated with desistence from marijuana use and other drugs, and perceived religious importance was negatively related to initiation of drug use. • Drawback: limited data, few controls for other important known predictors of drug use.
• Peggy Giordano and associates’ studies (2008; 2007; 2002) have found qualitative evidence that religiosity can be a “hook for change” and a source of “prosocial capital” that fosters desistence from crime among a sample of highly socioeconomically disadvantaged offenders. • However, their quantitative analysis found that religiosity, by itself, did not have a significant effect on desistence from crime, when controlling for other criminogenic factors.
• Other suggestive evidence: Studies show that faith based approaches help prevent recidivism among adult prisoners (Johnson and Larson 2003; Johnson 2002; Hercik 2004).
Data • National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), Waves 1 -3. – Stratified sample of 80 high schools, 52 middle schools. – Over 8, 000 respondents available for our Wave 1 -3 analyses. – Our analyses correct for unequal probability of selection and clustering of students in schools.
Method • Multinomial Logistic Regression – Used for analyses of multiple outcome categorical data. – Allows us to examine the likelihood of respondents exhibiting one of the patterns of marijuana use we are interested in (initiation, intermittent, desistence, persistence) versus the others.
Dependent Variable: Patterns of Marijuana Use Over Time • Never used • Initiation=not using at Wave 1 but using at Wave 2 and/or 3, • Intermittent=not using at Wave 1, using at Wave 2, not using at Wave 3, or vice versa. • Desistence=using at Wave 1 but stopping at Wave 2 and not using at Wave 3, or, using at Wave 1 and 2 and stopping at Wave 3 • Persistence=using at all three times.
Religious Variables • Religious tradition (Catholic, evangelical protestant, black protestant, mainline protestant, other, none) • Parent’s religiosity • Biblical literalism • Born again Christian • Adolescent’s religiosity (church attendance, importance of religion, frequency of prayer)
Control Variables • • • Sex Age Race/ethnicity Living with both biological parents On welfare (AFDC/TANF, SSI, food stamps, housing subsidy) • Parents’ education • Grade point average
Mediating Variables • Parental attachment • School attachment • Number of “best friends” using marijuana at least once a month • Self control scale • Negative emotionality scale
Highlights of Results • Religiosity strongly discourages persistent marijuana use and encourages desistence. • Religiosity may tend to discourage initiation of marijuana use. • Some of religiosity’s effects are mediated by other known predictors of delinquency, religiosity’s effects remain significant and strong even when controlling for the effects of other variables.
Conclusions • Religiosity discourages persistent marijuana use, and may discourage initiation of marijuana use. • Religiosity does so partly because of its indirect influence on friendships, prosocial attachments, self control, and coping with strain/negative emotionality. • A strong part of religiosity’s effects are unique, and not due to the above non-religious factors.
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