Theorizing Religious Effects Among American Adolescents

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A large body of empirical studies shows that religion often serves as a factor promoting positive, healthy outcomes in the lives of American adolescents. Yet existing theoretical explanations for these religious effects remain largely disjointed and fragmented. This article attempts to formulate a more systematic, integrated, and coherent account of religion's constructive influence in the lives of American youth, suggesting nine key factors (moral directives, spiritual experiences, role models, community and leadership skills, coping skills, cultural capital, social capital, network closure, and extra–community links) that cluster around three key dimensions of influence (moral order, learned competencies, and social and organizational ties).

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Publication date: March 1, 2003

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