This longitudinal study aimed to identify variation by race in the associations between religious involvement and initiation of alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use, including distinctions by substance or type of religious involvement, in Black and White adolescent girls.
Data were drawn from interviews conducted at ages 11 through 17 with 2172 Pittsburgh Girls Study participants (56.8% Black; 43.2% White). Two indicators of public religious involvement, religious service attendance and participation in other religious activities, and two indicators of private religious involvement, prayer, and importance of religion were queried. A series of Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were conducted to identify independent effects of religious involvement indicators on initiation of each substance.
Prior to adjusting for socioenvironmental and psychosocial factors (e.g., parental monitoring), importance of religion predicted initiation of alcohol use across race and cigarette and marijuana use in White but not Black girls. Participation in other religious activities also predicted marijuana use initiation only in White girls. In adjusted models, importance of religion remained significant for cigarette use initiation in White girls (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.68, 95% confidence intervals [CI]: 0.53–0.88) and participation in other religious activities remained significant for marijuana use initiation in White girls (HR = 0.63, CI: 0.47–0.83).
The protective effects of religious involvement against cigarette and marijuana use initiation are more robust for White than Black adolescent girls and overall relatively weak for alcohol use initiation. Furthermore, importance placed on religion may be a better indicator than religious service attendance of risk for adolescent substance use initiation.
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Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA023549), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA012237), the National Institute on Mental Health (MH056630), FISA Foundation, and the Falk Fund. We thank all of the research participants and their families for the time which they dedicated to this study.
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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
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Sartor, C.E., Hipwell, A.E. & Chung, T. Public and private religious involvement and initiation of alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use in Black and White adolescent girls. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2020) doi:10.1007/s00127-020-01830-y
- Religious involvement
- Adolescent girls
- Black/African American