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Adolescents’ Religious Discordance with Mothers: Is There a Connection to Sexual Risk Behavior During Emerging Adulthood?

Abstract

This study longitudinally investigates the relationship between adolescent/mother religious discordance and emerging adult sexual risk-taking 6–7 years later. We used Social Control Theory to examine the level and direction of concordance using data from Wave I and Wave III of the Add Health Study, focusing on constructs of religious importance, frequency of prayer, and attendance at religious services. We found that higher levels of adolescent/mother discordance in religious importance were related to increased emerging adult sexual risk-taking compared to those with similar levels adolescent/mother religiosity, but this occurred only when mothers reported higher levels of religious importance than their children. In contrast, adolescents reporting higher frequency of prayer than their mothers reported lower levels of sexual risk-taking than those with similar frequency of adolescent/mother prayer. These findings suggest that the protective effects of family religious socialization can be interrupted. However, this influence of religious difference on sexual risk-behavior operates differently depending on the direction and level of religious difference. Even in emerging adulthood, a period marked by distance from childhood values and institutions, religious difference with a parent remains a meaningful influence.

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Acknowledgments

This publication was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Grant number R03HD057572-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact addhealth@unc.edu. No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Thanks to the Ineke Ceder and the WCW Writing Group for their edits and support.

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Correspondence to Jennifer M. Grossman.

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Grossman, J.M., Tracy, A.J. & Noonan, A.E. Adolescents’ Religious Discordance with Mothers: Is There a Connection to Sexual Risk Behavior During Emerging Adulthood?. J Primary Prevent 34, 329–343 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-013-0315-2

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Keywords

  • Religiosity
  • Religious discordance
  • Sexual risk-taking
  • Family
  • Adolescence
  • Emerging adulthood