Kids who go to church get better grades

Occasionally the discipline of Sociology redeems itself, as with a new study that confirms attending church is really good for your kids, and explains why in terms even an atheist can understand.

Robert Roy Britt of LiveScience.com has a good report of the findings of a study by Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa, and David Sikkink and Edwin Hernandez of the University of Notre Dame. They analyzed a national database and found some significant correlations among the various survey questions administered to a sample of 7th- through 12th-graders every year since 1994. Their research is published in the Sociological Quarterly, which is available on by subscription.

Britt's summary includes some fascinating findings, and what looks to me like very solid analysis, emphasizing the social structural elements that are visible to sociologists.
They have 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. They're more likely to participate in extracurricular activities.

Having no evidence of the quality of the people with whom they associated in church, the sociologists merely note the benefits of a social structure that results from an organized community. It is common sense that when you know the parents of children's friends, your kids are less likely to misbehave. It obviously also helps if the values shared are positive, but a sociologist studying a database doesn't have access to data that says anything about what the values are, and how they influence behavior.

Most people don't need a sociologist to tell them that church is good for kids. When I was getting my PhD in the field, we used to joke that the definition of the discipline was "The painful explication of the obvious." But it is still useful to be able to prove the obvious when so many people have become so detached from the obvious realities of life.

Update: Some commenters need it spelled it out.

Churches are an example of mediating institutions, the various organs of civil society. Not governments. In fact, churches are the most ancient and widespread mediating institution in Ameircan, suprpassing occupational groups, service clubs, and political parties, among many other categories. Membership in these groups often provides both positive values and a social nexus of people with whom you regularly associate. Children benefit from being embedded in a solid community with clear values.

If you are an atheist and believe there is no benefit from organized religion, even you must acknowlege that churches provide these structural benefits.

And if you happen to believe that faith in God is the rock upon which a good life is built, than the study confirms what you already know.

By the way, I have known practical atheists who have sent their children to religious schools.

Hat tip: Susan L.
Occasionally the discipline of Sociology redeems itself, as with a new study that confirms attending church is really good for your kids, and explains why in terms even an atheist can understand.

Robert Roy Britt of LiveScience.com has a good report of the findings of a study by Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa, and David Sikkink and Edwin Hernandez of the University of Notre Dame. They analyzed a national database and found some significant correlations among the various survey questions administered to a sample of 7th- through 12th-graders every year since 1994. Their research is published in the Sociological Quarterly, which is available on by subscription.

Britt's summary includes some fascinating findings, and what looks to me like very solid analysis, emphasizing the social structural elements that are visible to sociologists.
They have 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. They're more likely to participate in extracurricular activities.

Having no evidence of the quality of the people with whom they associated in church, the sociologists merely note the benefits of a social structure that results from an organized community. It is common sense that when you know the parents of children's friends, your kids are less likely to misbehave. It obviously also helps if the values shared are positive, but a sociologist studying a database doesn't have access to data that says anything about what the values are, and how they influence behavior.

Most people don't need a sociologist to tell them that church is good for kids. When I was getting my PhD in the field, we used to joke that the definition of the discipline was "The painful explication of the obvious." But it is still useful to be able to prove the obvious when so many people have become so detached from the obvious realities of life.

Update: Some commenters need it spelled it out.

Churches are an example of mediating institutions, the various organs of civil society. Not governments. In fact, churches are the most ancient and widespread mediating institution in Ameircan, suprpassing occupational groups, service clubs, and political parties, among many other categories. Membership in these groups often provides both positive values and a social nexus of people with whom you regularly associate. Children benefit from being embedded in a solid community with clear values.

If you are an atheist and believe there is no benefit from organized religion, even you must acknowlege that churches provide these structural benefits.

And if you happen to believe that faith in God is the rock upon which a good life is built, than the study confirms what you already know.

By the way, I have known practical atheists who have sent their children to religious schools.

Hat tip: Susan L.