Primary Sources: How Do Religious Parents Help Adolescents Avoid Risky Behavior?

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Photograph of a smiling young family.

The Role of Religiosity in the Relationship Between Parents, Peers, and Adolescent Risky Sexual Behavior” (abstract), Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 40, No. 3, March 2011.

What it's about: The authors of this article wanted to learn how parents’ religiosity reduces the chances of adolescents engaging in risky sexual behavior. They studied 612 African American youth from small towns and cities in Iowa and Georgia for two years. The young people were between 18 and 19 years old at the end of the study.

Why read it: Research has shown that, compared to their peers, adolescents with religious parents wait longer to have sex, have fewer sexual partners, and practice safer sex when they do have it. But we don’t know how and why parents’ religiosity affects teen sexual behavior. This study explores the link.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: The authors found that religious parents not only passed along their norms and values, but also exposed their adolescent children to healthy social influences in religious peer groups. Religious parents communicated more actively with their adolescents about values and activities, and made an effort to know where and with whom their children spent time. Based on these findings, the authors propose that the influence of religious parents goes beyond faith to their parenting practices in general. With that in mind, programs that work with families can encourage “authoritative parenting,” a parenting style that emphasizes warmth, support, communication, monitoring and consistent discipline.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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