Regular church attendance may boost a student's GPA, according to a new study.
Students who attend religious services weekly average a GPA of 0.144 higher than those who never attend services, said Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Despite the positive link between church attendance and academic success, the study surprisingly found the importance of religion to teens had "very little impact" on their educational outcomes, Glanville noted, according to the University of Iowa News Services. The study had looked at whether the teens said religion was important to them.
"That suggests that the act of attending church – the structure and the social aspects associated with it – could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion," the sociologist suggested.
Glanville, who led the study, and David Sikkink and Edwin Hernandez of the University of Notre Dame analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative study that explores the causes of health-related behaviors of adolescents in grades 7 through 12 and their outcomes in young adulthood. Students from 132 schools in 80 communities participated.
While other studies have also noted a link between church attendance and positive educational outcomes, the latest study is one of the first to examine reasons for the academic success.
According to the study, church-going teens tend to do better in school because of regular contact with adults from various generations who serve as role models; their parents are more likely to communicate with their friends' parents; they develop friendships with peers who have similar norms and values; and they're more likely to participate in extracurricular activities.
"There are two directions you can go with this research," said Glanville. "Some might say this suggests that parents should have their kids attend places of worship. Or, if we use it to help explain why religious participation has a positive effect on academics, parents who aren't interested in attending church can consider how to structure their kids' time to allow access to the same beneficial social networks and opportunities religious institutions provide."
In addition to higher GPAs, teens who attended services regularly also had a lower dropout rate and felt more like a part of the school and happy to be a part of it, according to the study, which is published in the winter 2008 issue of The Sociological Quarterly.
"For typical teens in the study, the probability of dropping out of high school for those who attend religious services and youth activities at least once a week is .05," Glanville noted. "For teens who never attend services, the probability is .084, over 60 percent greater."