by George Strickland, Ph.D.
Based on new studies conducted by Baylor University, children from more religious families and from families with higher rates of religious attendance are better behaved and more well adjusted at home and at school. Better educated people generally had parents who attended church services twice or more a month. Among people with graduate level educations, two-thirds had mothers who were from frequent church attenders, compared to just under half of people with only a high school education. The difference is just as significant when looking at the frequency of church attendance by both parents and even larger when looking at fathers’ attendance. This evidence is highly correlated with other studies that show church attendance during adolescence helps reduce a number of the damaging long-term risk factors of disadvantaged children and leads to better education success overall.
There are a number of reasons why parents’ religious attendance might improve children’s educational and developmental outcomes. First, children may be more likely to learn wholesome values and moral commitment if they go to church. Second, a parish can provide an important sense of community that can help develop commitment to voluntarism, social responsibility and a sense of self-worth.
Third, having children who attend church together can help assure that a child grows up in an intact family. The Baylor studies show:
The average person is fifty percent less likely to be divorced or separated if he or she attends religious services at least twice a month.
The divorce rate among those who never attend worship is close to double that of weekly church goers.
If parents go to church—especially if they go together—children are likely to grow up in intact families. Having an intact family has numerous benefits, both financial and social-psychological: higher household income, better health care, more involvement by parents, result in children who are less likely to smoke, less likely to have sex early, and more likely to be happy. Any of these benefits could explain why children are more likely to get a good education when there parents attend church often.
Since the parents church attendance is highly correlated with educational outcomes, the Baylor studies indicate some fascinating observations. Among people with children, the more educated their occupational classification, the higher level of church attendance. But among the childless, things go in the opposite direction–the less educated is slightly more likely to attend church at least twice a month. What is really fascinating is that people in high and mid-range education dramatically increase their church attendance when they have children—while those in the less educated occupations do not.
The connection between family and church is quite strong. Despite the perennially announced decline in the church’s importance–its announcement being greeted with cheers among the “cultured despisers of religion”–the church remains vital and intact. Often overlooked in various studies are the ways in which the values expressed by the church infiltrate and influence countless lives for the better. When parents go to church and take their children, the kids get more education, and have more satisfying and happy lives.