From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Copping a (faithful) attitude

Date 12 Dec 2002 15:07:06 -0500

Note #7542 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Copping a (faithful) attitude
December 11, 2002

Copping a (faithful) attitude

Study finds that religious teens are more positive about life than their

by Jerry L. Van Marter

LOUISVILLE - Religious high school seniors have significantly higher
self-esteem and a more positive attitude about life than their non-religious
peers, sociologists at the University of North Carolina have found.

According to Christian Smith, principal investigator for the National Study
of Youth and Religion (NSYR), regular church service attendance and
participation in religious youth groups are associated with higher
self-esteem and more positive self-attitudes among young people. Smith, who
is a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill,
co-authored the NSYR report - Religion and the Life Attitudes and Self-Images
of American Adolescents - with Robert Faris, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology
at the school.

Their report was released Dec. 4. It was based on data collected in 1996 and
examined correlations between religious practices and a variety of attitudes,
including view of self, hopefulness about the future, satisfaction with life
and meaningfulness of life.

Despite the positive findings, the researchers found that religion is not a
cure-all for American teenagers.

For example, 13 per cent of 12th graders who attend religious services weekly
or more and 15 per cent of those who say faith is important in their lives
agree that the future often seems hopeless and that life often seems
meaningless. Eighteen percent each of 12th graders who attend religious
services weekly or more and who say faith is important in their lives also
agree that they sometimes think they are no good at all. 

Smith acknowledged that it's hard to determine direct cause-and-effect
relationships between religion and life attitudes. What is clear to him,
however, is that religiously involved U.S. teenagers have more positive
attitudes about themselves and life in general than non-religious youth.
"This understanding is a valuable starting point of knowledge for considering
ways to enhance the quality of life of U.S. adolescents," he said. 

The NSYR is a four?year research project funded by Lilly Endowment. It began
in August 2001 and will continue until August 2005.  The purpose of the
project is to research the shape and influence of religion and spirituality
in the lives of American adolescents; to identify effective practices in the
religious, moral and social formation of the lives of youth; to describe the
extent to which youth participate in and benefit from the programs and
opportunities that religious communities are offering to their youth; and to
foster an informed national discussion about the influence of religion in
youth's lives to encourage sustained reflection about and rethinking of our
cultural and institutional practices with regard to youth and religion.

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