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Religiosity and Teen Drug Use Reconsidered: A Social Capital Perspective

Publication Abstract

Bartkowski, John P., and Xiaohe Xu. 2007. "Religiosity and Teen Drug Use Reconsidered: A Social Capital Perspective." American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(6S): S182-S194.

Background

Although religiosity has often been shown to have a deterrent effect on teen drug use, noteworthy theoretic gaps and contradictory findings have left important questions unanswered. Methods

Conceptualizing religion as a measure of social capital and using cross-sectional data from Monitoring the Future (1996), a nationally representative sample of American high school seniors collected annually, this study is designed to shed new light on the relationship between religiosity and drug use among American youth. Levels of teen drug use for three different components of faith-based social capital—exposure to and internalization of religious norms, integration within religious networks, and trust in religious phenomena—are explored with respect to high school seniors’ use of alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs during the year prior to the survey. In addition, drug use associated with faith-based and secular forms of civic engagement among teens (e.g., participation in religious youth groups vs secular organizations such as sports and school clubs, theistic trust vs secular trust) are compared. Results

Among religiosity variables, integration within congregational networks (i.e., worship service attendance) exhibits the most consistent negative association with youth drug use. Theistic trust is not associated with teen drug use, but secular trust and civic participation in secular organizations are associated with less drug use. Conclusions

Elements of both religious and secular social capital are associated with lower reported drug use, thereby suggesting that multiple avenues for the prevention of teen drug use might be pursued. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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