Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Public and private domains of religiosity and adolescent health risk behaviors: evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health


Author Info

  • Nonnemaker, James M.
  • McNeely, Clea A.
  • Blum, Robert Wm.
Registered author(s):


    The purpose of this study was to examine the association of public and private domains of religiosity and adolescent health-related outcomes using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative sample of American adolescents in grades 7-12. The public religiosity variable combines two items measuring frequency of attendance at religious services and frequency of participation in religious youth group activities. The private religiosity variable combines two items measuring frequency of prayer and importance of religion. Our results support previous evidence that religiosity is protective for a number of adolescent health-related outcomes. In general, both public and private religiosity was protective against cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana use. On closer examination it appeared that private religiosity was more protective against experimental substance use, while public religiosity had a larger association with regular use, and in particular with regular cigarette use. Both public and private religiosity was associated with a lower probability of having ever had sexual intercourse. Only public religiosity had a significant effect on effective birth control at first sexual intercourse and, for females, for having ever been pregnant. However, neither dimension of religiosity was associated with birth control use at first or most recent sex. Public religiosity was associated with lower emotional distress while private religiosity was not. Only private religiosity was significantly associated with a lower probability of having had suicidal thoughts or having attempted suicide. Both public and private religiosity was associated with a lower probability of having engaged in violence in the last year. Our results suggest that further work is warranted to explore the causal mechanisms by which religiosity is protective for adolescents. Needed is both theoretical work that identifies mechanisms that could explain the different patterns of empirical results and surveys that collect data specific to the hypothesized mechanisms.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 57 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 11 (December)
    Pages: 2049-2054

    as in new window
    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:57:y:2003:i:11:p:2049-2054

    Contact details of provider:
    Web page:

    Order Information:

    Related research

    Keywords: USA Religiosity Adolescents Risk behaviors Substance use Sexual behavior;


    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Jennifer M. Mellor & Beth A. Freeborn, 2009. "Religious Participation and Risky Health Behaviors among Adolescents," Working Papers 86, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
    2. Barry Chiswick & Donka Mirtcheva, 2013. "Religion and Child Health: Religious Affiliation, Importance, and Attendance and Health Status among American Youth," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 120-140, March.
    3. Samuel Stroope & Scott Draper & Andrew Whitehead, 2013. "Images of a Loving God and Sense of Meaning in Life," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 25-44, March.


    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:57:y:2003:i:11:p:2049-2054. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.