Want Romance? Go to Church, Study Finds

Study Finds Couples Who Go to Church Together Are in the Happiest Relationships

harvest crusade
Thousands worship at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., during the 2011 Harvest Crusade. A total of 115,000 attended the evangelistic event, held Aug. 12-14. More than 12,000 people made decisions for Christ over the three days. |

The Institute on Family Studies released a study Thursday which found that couples who attend worship services together or when only the man attends services are happier than couples in which neither partner or only the woman attends.

Titled "Better Together: Religious Attendance, Gender, and Relationship Quality," the study was authored by W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and Nicholas H. Wolfinger, professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the University of Utah.

"Seventy-eight percent of men and women in couples who regularly go to services together, or where only the man attends regularly, report that they are 'very happy' or 'extremely happy,' after adjusting for differences in race, age, education, marital status, region, and other factors," read the study.

"By contrast, 67 percent of men and women in relationships where neither partner attends are happy, and just 59 percent of people in couples where only she attends regularly report they are very happy. Clearly, shared attendance and his attendance are linked to higher self-reported relationship quality."

Regarding why relationships are highly rated when only the man attends worship, Wilcox and Wolfinger attributed that to the content of the services.

"Our findings suggest that men's religious attendance is particularly beneficial to their relationships, perhaps in part because churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are some of the few institutions in American life that devote sustained attention to encouraging men to invest in their families," continued the study.

The research drew from the 2006 National Survey of Religion and Family Life, which had a sample space of approximately 1,600 adults aged 18-59.

This is not the first time that Wilcox has presented research finding a connection between healthy relationships and worship attendance.

In 2008, Wilcox found that married church-going Americans were more likely to describe themselves as "very happy" than Americans who did not attend church regularly.

For that study Wilcox drew upon the General Social Survey, the National Survey of Families and Households, and the National Survey of Family Growth.

He also drew critique from Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry, who told CNS News back in 2008 that there may have been an issue with correlation and causation.

"That may reflect the fact that males who are settled in their lives and highly socialized are both more likely to succeed in their marriages and more likely to attend church," asserted Flynn.

"Once again, it may mean that folks who have their lives together tend to avoid substance abuse, practice good health habits, and go to church."

Others have pointed to research done by entities like the Barna Group, which found a high rate of divorce and relationship issues among religious groups like evangelical Protestants.

Wilcox and Wolfinger address this matter near the beginning of "Better Together," arguing that the studies showing this do not factor in religious practice but only nominal affiliation.

"But these studies do not give us the full picture: religious affiliation is less important than regular religious attendance when it comes to predicting divorce," read the study released Thursday.

"Indeed, sociologist Charles Stokes finds that nominal evangelical Protestants are more likely to divorce than the average married person, whereas churchgoing evangelicals are less likely to divorce."

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