There is a new study out of the University of North Carolina about youth and religion. UNC is hardly a religious bastion. Some of its public stands have been anti-religious. But the new study gives support to the idea that the family is the basic unit of society, and that family stability is strengthened by religion.
This is contrary to a lot of modern theory which has tended to get children away from the home earlier. Some educational theorists have been effective in advocating this. Our observations here are not an attack on public educations per se, but of the direction some therein wish it to go. Their aim is to get the child out of the home as soon as possible. First there was kindergarten, then preschool, and now there is some movement to start public education at age three. Some of the more radical elements have let it slip that parents are too early corrupting young minds with out-of-date ideas, including religious ideas, and that schools getting control of children sooner will save the children from these corrupting influences.
In states where kindergarten is available but not compulsory, I have known parents who chose to opt out of the kindergarten choice. They felt the child would profit more by another year at home under family influence. Of course, where both parents worked, kindergarten was a convenient option, as is the possibility of even earlier schooling. It is free day care. This present study, as well as others, may undercut the idea of compulsory universal early schooling. The idea is that more home influence is better than early socialization. The latter tends more to peer pressure, and pressure to conform to societal, rather than family, norms. And the study says that religion strengthens the home.
The study was funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc., and its latest publication, “Family Religious Involvement and the Quality of Family Relationships of Early Adolescents,” also draws conclusions from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. It concludes such things as, “Adolescents...reared in religious households are more likely than peers from nonreligious families to admire Mom and Dad, to not run away from home.” And, “More religiously active families...exhibit signs of stronger family relationships”... “The parents get along with the teens better, the teens (are) more likely look up to their parents.”
That considered a “religious family” in the study is where religious activity such as attending worship services, or praying together, are engaged in 5 to 7 times a week. Among such families more than 70% of youth want to be like their parents. In non religious families this falls to about half. Obviously societal and peer pressures are stronger upon youth from non religious homes. In religious homes 61% of youth report eating dinner together with their families every night. Among non religious families only 38% of youth eat with their families each night. Having fun with the family each day was reported by 19% of youth from religious homes as compared with only 5% of youth from non religious homes.
While these figures are not ideal, they show a correlation between religious activity and family stability and influence. They show a spiritual component to man not satisfied by a secular society. And if we are not critical of public education per se, we are not champions of religion per se. The knowledge and practice of Truth that comes from God is going to be more powerful than just religion. But those of you with teens are to be commended for your faithfulness. Be assured that your faithful attendance is beneficial to your youth. Also let the gospel pervade your households. The family will be stronger, your young will be happier, and better equipped to withstand the godlessness that has been sown in this nation. “Nurture your children in the chastening and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). - Dale