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Arland Thornton photo

Religious Participation and Adolescent Sexual Behavior and Attitudes

Publication Abstract

Thornton, Arland, and Donald Camburn. 1989. "Religious Participation and Adolescent Sexual Behavior and Attitudes." Journal of Marriage and Family, 51(3): 641-53.

This article considers causal interconnections between adolescent sexuality and the religious affiliation and participation of adolescents. Our empirical analysis is consistent with previous research in showing religious involvement and adolescent sexual attitudes and behavior to be strongly correlated. Young people who attend church frequently and who value religion in their lives have the least permissive attitudes and are less experienced sexually. This study, however, goes beyond the point of view of earlier research in which the assumption was that the empirical correlation between religious involvement and sexuality entirely reflects the impact of religiosity on sexual attitudes and experience. The theoretical arguments presented here support the traditional hypothesis of an effect of religious participation on adolescent sexuality, but the study also posits that sexual behavior and attitudes significantly influence religious involvement. This causal model is estimated on the basis of data from a sample of young men and women and their mothers. The empirical analysis supports the theoretical arguments in that significant causal effects in both directions are found in the data.

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