Relationship between maternal church attendance and adolescent mental health and social functioning

Stuart R. Varon, Anne W. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Objective: This study compared maternal attendance at religious services with standard demographic characteristics such as race, type of religion, and mother's education in terms of their relative association with the behavioral and social functioning of young adolescents. Methods: The Child Health and Illness Profile - Adolescent Edition and the Children's Depression Inventory were used to screen 445 youths age 11 through 13 who were randomly selected from two public middle schools in Baltimore. Based on the findings, the investigators selected a sample of 143 youths in which approximately two- thirds were at risk of having a psychiatric disorder and the remaining third were unlikely to have a psychiatric disorder. The youths and their mothers were interviewed at home to determine the mothers' frequency of participation in religious services and the youths' self-reported health and mental health status and social role functioning. Results: Youths whose mothers attended religious services at least once a week had greater overall satisfaction with their lives, more involvement with their families, and better skills in solving health-related problems and felt greater support from friends compared with youths whose mothers had lower levels of participation in religious services. Maternal attendance at religious services had a strong association with the youths' outcome in overall satisfaction with health and perceived social support from friends, although family income was the strongest predictor of five other aspects of functioning, including academic performance. Conclusions: Frequent maternal participation in religious services was associated with healthy functioning and well-being in this sample of young adolescents. This association is as important as or more important than associations involving other traditional demographic variables, with the exception of family income.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-805
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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