Adolescents who are more committed to their faith do better academically than those who are not, with the religiously involved getting significantly higher grade- point averages, a new study by the Stanford University Graduate School of Education shows.
Ilana Horwitz, a Stanford doctoral candidate, concludes that religious communities help adolescents to cultivate two habits that are highly valued in education: conscientiousness and cooperation.
“Both practices – church attendance and doing well in school – require commitment, diligence, and routine,” she surmises. “The ritual practice of rising and going to church or mass, and so forth – whether compelled by one’s own faith or one’s parents’ demands – commits a youth to a practice and routine, a skill that translates into tools needed for academic success.”
Horwitz says most sociologists tend to disregard the role of religion in educational success. She believes that is a mistake.
“The United States is a highly religious country, and religion is a powerful social force,” she says. “If we, as education scholars, are trying to understand adolescents in America, we should pay attention to this very important part of their life.”
Horwitz interviewed 2,491 teenagers at public schools aged between 13 and 17. She grouped them in five categories from most to least religious: abiders, adapters, assenters, avoiders and atheists. Abiders attend religious services, pray on a regular basis, feel close to God and emphasize the role of faith in their daily lives. On the other end of the scale are avoiders – those believe that a God exists but avoid religious involvement and broader issues of the relevance of religion for their life.
Abiders, she found, earned significantly better grades on average than the avoiders. Abiders had an average GPA of 3.22, compared with 2.93 among avoiders.
“Being religious helps adolescents in middle and high school because they are rewarded for being obedient and respectful and for having self-control,” she comments.