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Education Reporter

Religious Teens Fare Better, Study Shows
New Polls: Teens Are More Conservative

Refuel and Revolve
Christian magazines for teens.
Young people who are religious are better off in significant ways than their secular peers, concluded a recent study by a Dartmouth Medical School commission that reviewed years of research on teens including brain-imaging.

Religious teens are less likely than non-believers to smoke or drink; more likely to eat healthfully; less likely to commit crimes; more likely to wear seat belts; less likely to be depressed; and more likely to be satisfied with their families and school, according to the study.

Religious congregations benefit teenagers by affirming who they are, expecting a lot from them and giving them opportunities to show what they can do. Adolescents, said the Dartmouth commission, are "hard-wired to connect" to people and to God.

The commission included professors and researchers at the medical schools of Harvard and UCLA, a University of Virginia sociologist, and childrearing experts T. Berry Brazelton, Robert Coles and Michael Resnick.

Meanwhile, three research organizations have independently concluded that teenagers have become more religious or conservative. In 2001, about 3 out of 5 teenagers said religion was "pretty important" or "very important" to them, a significant increase over a decade ago, according to the research organization Child Trends, which analyzed federal data. The sharpest increase occurred among students who anticipated finishing four years of college. (Chicago Tribune, 4-6-04)

Studies by the Gallup Organization and the University of California at Berkeley found that teens are more likely than adults to be in favor of prayer during official school activities and restrictions on abortion. The Berkeley study found that 69% of teens support prayer at school events versus 59% of adults aged 27 to 59. Furthermore, 44% of those aged 15 to 22 support government restrictions on abortion, versus 34% of respondents older than 26. (foxnews.com, 12-9-03)

These data confirm a trend toward religion observed in secondary schools and higher education. The number of high school Bible clubs has surged to about 15,000 over the last decade, and Christian colleges are seeing enrollment increase at three times the rate of other degree-granting schools. (Chicago Tribune, 4-6-04) This newspaper previously reported on an annual survey of college freshmen indicating that the percentage of conservatives has risen to 21% and some 80% have recently attended a church service, up from a low of 69%. (See Education Reporter, Mar. 2004.)

Pop culture has picked up on the religious trend. T-shirts with slogans like "Jesus loves me," "Dead to Sin, Alive to Christ" and "Mary Is My Homegirl" are selling briskly, and Christian rock bands sell their music in malls. A teen-targeted "Biblezine" edition of the New Testament, which includes reviews of Christian bands and pop quizzes such as "Are you dating a Godly guy?" has sold more than 300,000 copies since last July. Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" has sold more than $360 million in tickets since its February opening. (Wall Street Journal, 4-5-04)

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