The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The IMPACT Of Religiosity On The Delinquency Of Maltreated YOUTH

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 9:45 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102B Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jill Schreiber, PhD, Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Peck Hall Room 1306, IL
Background:  Maltreated adolescents are at an increased risk for delinquency. Youth and parent religiosity have been found to decrease adolescent delinquency in the general population, but the effect of religiosity on delinquency for maltreated adolescents has never been tested. Previous studies have found that youth who do not share religious affiliation with their parents have increased rates of delinquency.  Furthermore, youth who have poor parent–child relationships and family disruptions are less likely to share religious affiliation with their parents. Based on this literature it is hypothesized that increased caregiver religious attendance, increased adolescent religious attendance, increased adolescent religious importance, and religious matching between adolescent and their current caregiver will all be inversely associated with adolescent delinquency. 

Methods:  Data came from the 2008-2009 baseline of the National Study of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II), a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of children investigated for maltreatment with both caregiver and child measures. The sub-sample for this study included 952 children who were 11 and older who either remained with biological parents or were placed in foster care following an investigation (children in residential facilities were excluded). Delinquency was measured dichotomously (low/no delinquency vs. frequent/severe) based on youth self-reported acts of delinquency. Independent variables included religious measures, investigative case characteristics, and demographic data for both youth and the caregiver. Weighted analysis included Wald Chi Square bivariate analyses and logistic regressions. Three potential mediators of the effect of the religious measures on delinquency were added to the logistic regression: parent–child relationship, deviant peers, and parental monitoring.

Results: In the final model several factors were associated with increased odds of low/no delinquency, including youth reporting high religious importance (OR 1.9, p < .01), caregiver weekly religious attendance (OR 2, p < .05), and matching religious attendance (OR 1.7, p < .05).  Adolescent religious attendance was not significantly associated with delinquency after controlling for other variables.   Several demographic variables were associated with delinquency, including caregiver age, race, and type of abuse. Additionally, each year of age increased the odds of frequent/severe delinquency (OR= 1.5, p < .001). Additional analysis found that fewer deviant peers and improved parent–child relationship (but not parental monitoring) statistically mediated the effect of youth religious importance on delinquency.

Conclusion: The results of this study on maltreated youth mirror research in the general population which found that religious commitments protect youth from risk behaviors. These findings have important practice and policy implications.  First it is important to support maltreated youth’s religious development; several specific practices have been proposed by Jeong and Canda (2010), including 1) helping children process frightening experiences, 2) supporting religiously-based rites of passage, 3) assisting voluntary participation in familial or community events, feasts or festivals and 4) supporting the youth’s spiritual practices that develop a sense of meaning or connectedness.  Second, placement decisions should include religious matching, as a source of cultural continuity.  Supporting religious development and sensitivity to religious matching in placement could improve delinquency outcomes for maltreated youth.