Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Does Religious Involvement Protect Low-Income High-Risk Urban Teens? (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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10P (WITHDRAWN) Does Religious Involvement Protect Low-Income High-Risk Urban Teens?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Erika Hildebrandt, MSW, PhD Student, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, TX
Background and Purpose: Adolescent health, mental health and substance use problems are epidemiological concerns with 20% of US adolescents meeting criteria for obesity, 34.9% of high school students reporting drinking alcohol, 23.4% reporting use of marijuana, 6.7% smoking cigarettes, 13% reporting major depressive episodes, and 29% of teens reporting feeling anxious almost every day. Cultural factors have also been identified as protective factors to these adolescent outcomes. Religion and spirituality (RS) may mitigate health, mental health, and substance use risks for adolescents. The current study explores the role of religious affiliation (RA) and religious involvement (RI) on health outcomes. The purpose of the study is to identify the salience of RI for adolescents across gender, ethnic/racial and religious culture groups and to identify the impact of RI on health outcomes for each culture group. The current study will address the following questions:

  1. Does gender, race, and RA influence RI in adolescents?
  2. Does RI influence health, mental health, and substance use in adolescents?
  3. 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.