- Does gender, race, and RA influence RI in adolescents?
- Does RI influence health, mental health, and substance use in adolescents?
- Does gender, ethnicity/race and RA influence adolescent health, mental health, and substance use when controlling for RI?
Methods: Data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCW) was utilized to examine the influence of gender, ethnicity/race, RA, and RI on adolescent health, mental health, and substance use. This diverse sample (N=2,747) of 15 y/o adolescents (50% male, 49.5% female) represents multiple culture groups (20% white/non-Hispanic, 50% black/non-Hispanic, 30% Latinx/Hispanic) and religious groups (26.5% Catholic, 41.2% Protestant, 32.3% other religions). Measures for each outcome variable are validated on national samples. Descriptive, bivariate, and inferential statistics were used. Comparisons of group means tests were utilized to examine the primary research questions. Factorial ANOVA, MANOVA, and factorial MANCOVA was determined to be the best approach.
Results: Bivariate correlations revealed 12 weak-moderate correlations among the 7 variables. Multivariate analysis showed white/non-Hispanic adolescents were more involved and adolescents of other religions less involved. Adolescents who are never involved had worse health, worse mental health, and more substance use. When controlling for RI, male Protestant adolescents had worse health; white/non-Hispanics females and adolescents of other religions had worse mental health; females of each ethnicity/race group had increased substance use.
Conclusions and Implications: Research in the area of RS offers a strengths-based perspective with more than half of adolescents endorsing RI at least monthly or more. While the adolescent literature shows a strong association between RI and less substance use in adolescence, the findings are inconsistent for gender, culture, and religious affiliation on other health outcomes. More research is needed in the area of RS and adolescent health, which has been under-studied to date. Research should focus on RS measures for the adolescent and sensitive to cultural and religious differences. Adolescent RS should be considered in clinical practice for substance use and other areas of treatment when adolescents disclose interest, confusion, or concern regarding issues of faith, affiliation, or any aspect of personal meaning-making.