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“Marijuana Use” by Current Religious Attendance and Number of Extramarital Sexual Partners

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The 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youthshows that adults who have had no extramarital sexual partners in the survey year and currently worship at least weekly are less likely to use marijuana.

Number of extramarital sexual partners:
Thirty-four percent of individuals who have no extramarital sexual partners in the survey year have ever used marijuana, compared with 44 percent of individuals who have had one extramarital sexual partner. Fifty-eight percent of individuals who have had two extramarital sexual partners have ever used marijuana, followed by 69 percent who have three extramarital sexual partners and 77 percent of those who have had four or more.

Current religious attendance
: Only 19 percent of individuals who attend church at least weekly have ever used marijuana, compared to 40 percent who attend at least monthly. Fifty-seven percent of individuals who attend church less than monthly have ever used marijuana, compared with 60 percent who never attend church.

Current religious attendance and number of extramarital sexual partners
combined: Those who worship at least weekly and were chaste (had no extramarital sexual partners) in the survey year were least likely to heavily use marijuana (23 percent), followed by those who were chaste but did not attend church (45 percent), those who attend church weekly but were promiscuous (had four or more extramarital sexual partners) in the survey year (61 percent), and those who were promiscuous and never attended church (81 percent).

Related Insight from Other Studies

Study of a sample of Americans reaching maturity in the late ’70s and early ’80s showed that “[b]oys and girls who become sexually active are much more likely than those who abstain to begin using alcohol or marijuana within a year, although the linkage is stronger for girls than for boys&the link between sexual activity and marijuana use appears stronger than the link between sexual activity and alcohol use.”[1]

One study of adolescents in the Midwest found that religiosity and the importance placed on participating in church activities reduced adolescent likelihood to use marijuana. Furthermore, the difference in likelihood to use marijuana between strongly religious and weakly religious adolescents was the largest observed; strongly religious adolescents were less likely to use marijuana. (Other differences, such the likelihood to use stimulants, to steal, or to drink beer, were also examined.)[2]

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] Frank L. Mott and R. Jean Haurin, “Linkages Between Sexual Activity and Alcohol and Drug Use Among Adolescents,” Family Planning Perspectives 20, no. 3 (1988): 128.

[2] John K. Cochran, “Another Look at Delinquency and Religiosity,” Sociological Spectrum 9 (1989): 153, 157.