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The relationship between religiosity and substance use in adolescents

18 April 2003


Much of the research on risk and protective factors of substance use in adolescents has either assumed a priori that religiosity is a protective factor or has included it as a part of an aggregate of proposed protective factors (Donovan Jessor & Costa, 1991; Felix-Ortiz &Newcomb, 1992; Jessor & Jessor, 1977). However, very few studies have examined religiosity as a discrete factor, and when this has been done conflicting findings have often been cited (Hirschi & Stark, 1969; Stark, Kent & Doyle, 1982). u In the present study of 776 adolescents eM = 11.50 years, SD = 1.74 years) in Portland, Oregon, a large city in the Pacific Northwest, both adolescent participants and one of their guardians provided information about the adolescents' alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use, importance of school, self-worth, perceived social acceptance, and intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity. A stratified quasi-random sampling approach was used to ensure that the sample was sufficiently random while at the same time ensuring adequate participation by members of minority groups (30.8% African American; 61.3% White, not of Hispanic Origin; 1.5% American Indian/Native American; 2.4% Spanish/Hispanic/Latino; 1.3% Asian/Pacific Islander). It was hypothesized that there would be an inverse relationship between religiosity and substance use, and a positive correlation between religiosity and known protective factors. It was further hypothesized that, as cited by Park, Bauer and Oescher (2001), in European Americans both extrinsic and intrinsic religiosity would negatively correlate with substance use, while in African Americans only intrinsic religiosity would significantly correlate with substance use. Point-biserial analyses contradicted all of the above hypotheses, revealing no significant relationship between any measure of religiosity and substance use. Inverse relationships were found between self-worth and importance and school and substance use. When the data was analyzed by ethnicity it was found that in European Americans there were inverse relationships between importance of school and self-worth and substance use, and a negative relationship between overall religiousness and extrinsic religiosity and self-worth. In African American adolescents and inverse relationship was found between self-worth and all categories of substance use, importance of school and marijuana use, and a positive relationship was found between intrinsic religiosity and self-worth. Implications of the findings for regional variance in problem behavior theory and the conventionality and unconventionality construct are discussed. The reconceptualization of religiosity as a social rather than as an individual construct, and the thus the importance of local norms on the effects of religiosity, is discussed. Finally, constructs of worth- and acceptance-based theologies are discussed as important factors in future research on religiosity.


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