Youth, religion, and resilience

Date of Completion

January 2006


Religion, General|Anthropology, Cultural|Psychology, Clinical




The incidence of depression and associated mental and behavioral disorders has increased globally over the past several decades and continues to increase in both developed and developing nations. These disorders constitute a major health risk and are particularly prevalent among adolescents. From 1960 to 1989 the rate of suicide among young people in the United States increased by 160% and continues to be one of the leading causes of death among adolescents. Not all adolescents subjected to risk factors develop depression. Accumulating research suggests that one factor that may contribute to adolescent resilience is religious involvement. The current study was undertaken in order to the examine effects of adolescent religious involvement on resilience, and to identify specific elements of religion that may contribute to those effects. Preliminary research consisted of a survey of 310 Connecticut university students. Results suggested beneficial effects of religion on depression and demonstrated a statistically significant effect of participation in religious ritual on ongoing religious involvement. The second and third phases of this study involved participant observation, interviews, and surveys of youth at church and school sites located in Connecticut and Florida. Data collected were statistically analyzed and effects of religious practices on religious beliefs were examined. Youth religion "cultures" were identified and compared in relation to daily activities, problem solving strategies, and mood variables. Findings indicated significant effects of religious belief and involvement in each of these domains. Youth who reported no religious involvement or belief were less likely to talk with friends when solving problems, less likely to spend time on family activities, and less likely to feel happy. These adolescents also reported greater difficulty concentrating than other teens in this study. Religiously involved youth were more likely to spend time on family activities, talk with friends to solve problems, feel calm and happy, and were less likely to ignore problems. This study identified specific elements of religious involvement that contribute to adolescent resilience by enhancing social skills, expanding problem solving strategies, and increasing positive affect. ^