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Grade Point Average by Current Religious Attendance and Structure of Family of Origin

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The 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth shows that students who grew up in an intact married family and currently worship at least weekly have higher GPAs (grade point averages) than other students.

Description: Examining only structure of family of origin, students from married, always-intact families have an average GPA of 3.0. Students from intact cohabiting families (2.8), from married stepfamilies and divorced single-parent families (2.7), cohabiting stepfamilies (2.6), and always-single parent families (2.5) have lower average GPAs than students from always-intact families.

Examining only current religious attendance, students who attend religious services at least weekly have an average GPA of 3.0. Those who attend at least monthly (2.9), those who attend less than monthly (2.7), and those who never attend religious services (2.6) have lower average GPAs than students who attend at least weekly.

Examining current religious attendance and structure of family of origin combined, students from always-intact married families who attend religious services at least weekly have an average GPA of 3.1. Students from always-intact married families who never attend religious services have an average GPA of 2.8, and students from all other family structures who attend religious services at least weekly have an average GPA of 2.7. Students from all other family structures who never attend religious services have the lowest average GPA (2.6).

Related Insight from Other Studies

A study by Alan R. King of the University of North Dakota found a number of correlations between family and personal religiosity and academic performance. King writes that “unexpressive and conflicted family environments which lack in cohesion and moral emphasis are particularly troublesome to high school performance.”[1] He also found that students whose families are very morally and religiously strong are two thirds less likely to skip class frequently in college.[2]

A study of students at elite U.S. colleges (including Columbia University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University) found after controlling for class, race, family background, and gender that religiosity influenced college achievement. Students who attended religious services at least weekly during their final year of high school had higher grades in college than students who did not attend religious services regularly.[3]

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. and Scott Talkington, Ph.D.

Pat Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council.

Scott Talkington has been Research Director for the National Association of Scholars and Senior Research Fellow at George Mason University School of Public Policy since 1998.

[1] Alan R. King, “Family Environment Scale Predictors of Academic Performance,” Psychological Reports 83 (1998): 1325.

[2] Alan R. King, “Family Environment Scale Predictors of Academic Performance,” Psychological Reports 83 (1998): 1326.

[3] Margarita Mooney, “Religion, College Grades, and Satisfaction among Students at Elite Colleges and Universities,” Sociology of Religion 71.2 (2010): 210.