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When “Sacred and Sexual” Are a Toxic Mix

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In my thirty years of dealing with data on marriage and worship I have never come across anything like what I discuss today:  the interface between worship and sexuality for teenage boys and girls whose parents have divorced or remarried.  On all other outcomes measured,  the more people worship, the greater their benefits and the lower their deficits, but not here.

For a teenage boy, the removal of his father from his home through divorce, has volcanic effects on his relationships with girls if he worships God weekly.  For a girl it is not so much the removal of her father that has the worst effect on her  but the replacement of her father by another man if she worships God weekly.  These two related upheavals viciously subvert the effects of their worship of God, because the more they worship God, the more they violate Him — by violating others — in that dimension at  the heart of life, the sexual.  No wonder God really hates divorce.[1]

From the US federal data system, (the largest national data system in the world) we know that those who worship God weekly do best on every outcome, and those who worship Him least (“couple of times a year” or “never” ) do worst on all outcomes.  This holds for both adults and for children and therefore for the population in general.

You can view a sampler of the Mapping America results, or the whole demographic collection, but for brevity sake a few examples of the general pattern of effects follow.  That pattern is  invariable: the worship of God is  correlated with good effects while  decreasing worship correlates with bad effects.

But for the hapless teenage sons and daughters of divorced or remarried parents life is different.  (Hapless in that they had no control over what the “fleeing or expelling” parent did and are the passive recipients of the experience of divorce handed them by a parent or both parents.) 

For boys here is the chart from Add Health Wave II, using the largest sample of teenagers  of any federal survey (14,738 sample size).   When the full sample is looked at from the major categories of worship and family structure the results follow the normal pattern:

However, with boys who worship weekly in father-absent divorced families we get the very opposite:

The more they worship God the more they sexually violate girls.   For girls who worship weekly, it is not divorce, but remarriage that looms large in violations:

Comparing boys and girls side by highlights the disturbed psyches of male and female teenagers:

The “sexual intercourse with the opposite sex” is much greater for boys than for girls.  The effects of these trysts are powerful: their future marriages are much more likely to break up within five years, as the following chart shows:

Nowhere in the social sciences have I seen outcomes like these.  In this sole instance, the most frequent worship of God is correlated with an increase in a serious evil by Christian standards, keeping in mind that the majority of these weekly worshipping teenagers being Christian. 

 Had all these teenagers been granted their fundamental human right — to the marriage of their biological parents[1] — the violation of girls would be  much less.  The loss of chastity for girls would have been enormously reduced just by the normal human strengths that are conferred (socially constructed in today’s parlance) when the local community is composed of intact families that worship God weekly. From the chart immediately above it is reasonable to conclude that for from intact marriages where the family worships weekly, trysts above the red line would likely not have happened.  And with only one sexual partner (the average in this data for those in intact marriage families that worship God weekly), should they have gone on to marry each other (not uncommon in the 1950’s and earlier) their marriages would most likely have endured – because they would have been monogamous! 

Combining the two charts immediately above, we get some idea of the intergenerational impact of divorce on society, through its impact on the sexual behavior of the boys and girls affected.  Furthermore, the damage is intergenerational. It goes on and one.  The grandchildren of the divorced parents are much more likely to be subjected to the same experience over and over…though by then many families will have stopped worshipping God (divorce dumbs down the rate and type of worship that the family engages in[2]).   Given present family structures (see chart immediately below[3]), it is no wonder we live in a era of sexual chaos.  And it is not the teenagers’ fault.

What is it about divorce that seems to make the worship of God toxic? From myriad studies we know that the father’s role is paramount in the formation of sexual integrity in his sons and daughters.  But when he takes his sexuality outside the marriage, and especially when it is disrupts altogether through divorce  “all hell breaks loose” in the sexual core of his children. Surprisingly, the more frequently they worship God the greater that “hell” is.

A Freudian perspective helps makes sense. Though the boy may not be aware of it,  tension mounts within him when he goes to worship God the Father while his earthly father has abandoned him.  He seeks release by copying his earthly  father: leaving one woman to bed the next —  again and again. The more he comes to God his Father, the more women he will bed. Where else in human behavior does the keeping of one commandment increase the breaking of another?  What evil dynamic is in play?  Anger at God turned into exploitation of women?  Insights into that dark world fail me here.

The toxic mix of the father’s (or mother’s) shattering of marriage — the most sacred and sexual of earthly covenants— on his children, coupled with his children’s weekly journey to God the Father, yields a witches brew.   There is a real need to solve this mystery — depth psychologists working closely with pastors who have a special heart for these wounded teenage boys and girls.

[1] Malachi 2:16 

[2] See Fagan, P and Suanders, W:  The Universal, Inalienable Right of the Child to the Marriage of His Biological Parents,  BYU Journal of Public Law, Vol 32, Issue #2, 2018.  (Just released, not yet available online.  Online journal site:  https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/jpl/all_issues.html)

[3] See Fagan, P.  and Rector, R  “The Effects of Divorce on America”, (2004), The Heritage Foundation (summary).  Full article available at   https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/fagan-divorce.htm

[4] You can derive this chart and 5,000 other charts  by using the tool box / dashboard at http://marri.us/decomp-family/

God, Fertility, and Hope for the Future.

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Last week, The Upshot (New York Times) reported that women are having less children than they would like, mainly because of the worries illustrated below.

Despite the fact that we live in the biggest, most prosperous nation ever in history, our women are anxious and fearful about having children. Given their psychological and family experiences this is understandable: Most young women (and men) today come from broken families. They are afraid to take the risk of a “big exploration trip into the unknown” together. Unlike Columbus setting sail into unchartered waters, they stay onshore fearful of probable storms and occasional bad weather.

But those who worship God weekly see life differently. They are more likely to take the risk and to set sail. Though, unlike Columbus, they don’t discover new continents — they make them.

John Mueller of The Ethics and Public Policy Institute found that, globally, across religions and cultures, women who worship weekly have more than twice as many children as those who never worship.

Mueller reasons: “Personal gift of time and resources involved in worship is closely and systematically associated with the personal gift of having children for their own sake rather than for the pleasure and utility of the parents.”

MARRI graphs further illustrate the influence of belief in God on related issues: on the meaning and importance of having children, on happiness, and on fears and anxieties during intercourse.

Those who worship frequently value having children more those who do not practice.

National data shows intact married couples that worship frequently are happiest.

National data indicates that intact families who worship weekly are less anxious and worried during intercourse.

The Upshot team at the New York Times repeatedly does “almost-great” work . Had they included religious worship question and marital status question they would see a dramatically different picture. The national averages would be the same but who is afraid and who is ready to plunge forward would stand out.

 

 

With an eye to the hand that could rock the cradle and give us the world,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Director of the MARRI Project

Catholic University of America

Family Structure and Sexual Intercourse Partners–Adolescent Girls

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Adolescent girls living in intact married families have the fewest sexual partners.

Female students in Grades 7-12 have an average of 0.71 sexual partners when they live in intact married families, whereas those who have a stepparent or divorced parents have an average of 1.39 and 1.29 sexual partners, respectively. In between are those whose parents never married (0.88), and those who live in cohabiting families with one natural parent (1.07) or both natural parents (1.15), according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Waves I and II.

Other Studies

Many other studies corroborate this finding.2 Patricia Goodson of Texas A&M University and colleagues insist that family structure is one of the most well-documented environmental factors affecting early sexual activity in adolescent females. According to the literature, girls living apart from their biological fathers due to out-of-wedlock births or divorce are most likely to become sexually active.3

H. H. Cleveland of Texas Tech University also finds that adolescent girls from non-intact families generally have more sexual partners than those from intact families.4

J. C. Abma of the National Center for Health Statistics and colleagues found that 43 percent of female adolescents living with both parents, biological or adoptive, have ever had sex.5 Comparatively, 64 percent of female adolescents living without a parent have had sex. In between are those living with a parent and stepparent (55 percent) and those living with a single or cohabiting parent (59 percent).6

Mignon R. Moore of the University of Chicago reports that white adolescent girls not living with both biological parents are significantly more likely to have sex at an earlier age. In black and white single-parent families girls are more likely to have sex early than those living with both biological parents.7

Moore and P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale of Northwestern University also find that a black female adolescent in a cohabiting family is more than three times as likely to be sexually active than a girl living with her married parents.8 The daughter of a single parent whose marriage was disrupted is three times more likely to be sexually active than if she were living with married parents.9

The evidence overwhelmingly confirms that female adolescents are least likely to engage in premarital sexual intercourse when raised in an intact married family. When parents belong to each other in always-intact marriage their children benefit sexually and are less likely to make early mistakes in this area of life.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.

2 The following findings are from www.familyfacts.org.

3 Patricia Goodson, Alexandra Evans, and Elizabeth Edmundson, “Female Adolescents and Onset of Sexual Intercourse: A Theory-Based Review of Research from 1984 to 1994,” Journal of Adolescent Health 21 (1997): 147-156.

4 H. H. Cleveland and Michael Gilson, “The Effects of Neighborhood Proportion of Single-parent Families and Mother-adolescent Relationships on Adolescents’ Number of Sexual Partners,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 33 (2004): 319-329.

5 The percentages in this paragraph are rounded up or down to the nearest whole number.

6 J. C. Abma, G. M. Martinez, W. D. Mosher, and B. S. Dawson, “Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing,” National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 23 (24) (2004): 19-20.

7 Mignon R. Moore, “Socially Isolated? How Parents and Neighborhood Adults Influence Youth Behavior in Disadvantaged Communities,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 26 (November 2003): 988-1005.

8 The numbers in this paragraph are rounded up or down to the nearest whole number.

9 Mignon R. Moore and P. L. Chase-Lansdale, “Sexual Intercourse and Pregnancy among African-American Girls in High-poverty Neighborhoods: The Role of Family and Perceived Community Environment,” Journal of Marriage and Family 63 (2001): 1146-1157.

Religious Attendance, Family Structure and Sexual Intercourse Partners — Adolescent Girls

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Adolescent girls from intact families who worship frequently have the fewest sexual partners in high school.

This chart depicts the average number of sexual intercourse partners for American female adolescents in Grades 7-12 when correlated with religious attendance and family structure. Female students in Grades 7-12 have an average of 0.47 sexual partners when they live in intact families and worship at least monthly. By contrast, those who worship less than monthly and come from broken or reconstituted families have an average of 1.55 sexual partners. Those who worship at least monthly but come from broken or reconstituted families have 0.93 partners. Girls who come from intact families but worship less than monthly have a slightly higher average of 1.14. The data is taken from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Waves I and II.

Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate findings along these lines.2 Analyzing fathers’ relationships with their adolescent daughters, Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin and Laura Luchies of Northwestern University report that while dads may feel off balance when their daughters become teenagers, their involvement in their daughters’ lives makes a significant difference, especially if they take them to church weekly and minimize their dating.3

Surveying more than 26,000 female and male adolescents, Christina Lammers of South Dakota State University and colleagues reveal that teens are more likely to practice sexual abstinence if they are more religious, live in a two-parent household, and believe that their parents care about their actions.4

Michael J. Donahue and Peter L. Benson of the Search Institute in Minneapolis also find that religious worship is the aspect of religiosity most directly correlated to abstinence among adolescents, more so than considering religion important or participating in church-related activities.5

Analyzing contextual environmental data on family structure and religious adherence, Karin L. Brewster of the University of North Carolina and colleagues report that adolescent girls who live in neighborhoods with a high percentage of divorced or separated women are particularly likely to have premarital sexual intercourse. This likelihood, however, is modified by the percentage of religious believers in the community. The greater the percentage of those who practice their faith the less the sexual activity of adolescent girls.6

Absent fathers and empty churches contribute to the increased sexual activity of female adolescents. The evidence strongly indicates that teenage girls are least likely to engage in sexual intercourse when living in an intact family that worships frequently.

Thus the two great relationships, between spouses and with God, seem most protective of the sexuality of young female teenagers.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.

2 The following findings are from www.familyfacts.org, except for Regnerus and Luchies, which is from the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society.

3 Mark D. Regnerus and Laura B. Luchies, “The Parent-Child Relationship and Opportunities for Adolescents’ First Sex,” Journal of Family Issues 27 (February 2006): 159-183.

4 Cristina Lammers, Marjorie Ireland, Michael Resnick, and Robert Blum, “Influences on Adolescents’ Decision to Postpone Onset of Sexual Intercourse: A Survival Analysis of Virginity among Youths Aged 13 to 18 Years,” Journal of Adolescent Health 26 (2000): 42-48.

5 Michael J. Donahue and Peter L. Benson, “Religion and the Well-Being of Adolescents,” Journal of Social Issues 51 (1995): 145-160.

6 Karin L. Brewster, William R. Grady, and John O. G. Billy, “Contextual Effects on the Sexual Behavior of Adolescent Women,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 56 (1994): 387-404.

Intergenerational Links to Viewing X-Rated Movies: Religious Attendance

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This chart is taken from a study conducted by Visiting Fellow Althea Nagai, Ph.D. for Family Research Council.

Adults who frequently attended religious services as adolescents are less likely to have viewed an X-rated movie in the last year.

According to the General Social Survey (GSS), 21.9 percent of adults who attended religious services at least monthly as adolescents had viewed an X-rated movie in the last year, compared to 26.6 percent of adults who attended worship less than monthly as adolescents.[1]

Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Stephen Tibbetts and Michael Blankenship of East Tennessee State University found that those with no religious affiliation were more tolerant of X-rated video stores, even more so when these stores were present in their own neighborhood.[2]

In an examination of Australian adolescents, Joan Abbott-Chapman and Carey Denholm of the University of Tasmania also reported a correlation between high levels of religiosity and avoidance of X-rated films. They found that religious beliefs, in and of themselves, are only weakly associated with avoiding X-rated films. “The positive, normative reinforcement of belonging to a church, school and/or community group of shared values is also needed.”[3]

Frequent religious attendance during adolescence, and the reinforcement of strong positive moral values that comes with it, decreases the likelihood of X-rated movie viewing in adulthood.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Center for Family and Religion at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.

[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Survey, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Stephen G. Tibbetts and Michael B. Blankenship, “Explaining Citizens’ Attitudes Toward Pornography: Differential Effects of Predictors Across Levels of Geographic Proximity to Other Sources,” Justice Quarterly, vol. 16 (1999): 735-763.

[3] Joan Abbott-Chapman and Carey Denholm, “Adolescents’ Risk Activities, Risk Hierarchies and the Influence of Religiosity,” Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 4 (2001): 279-297.

Intergenerational Links to Viewing X-Rated Movies: Family Structure

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This chart is taken from a study conducted by Visiting Fellow Althea Nagai, Ph.D. for Family Research Council.

Adults who grew up living with both biological parents are less likely to have viewed an X-rated movie in the last year.

According to the General Social Survey (GSS), 21 percent of adults who lived in an intact family as adolescents had viewed an X-rated movie in the last year, compared to 29 percent of those who lived in a non-intact family.[1]

Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Gina Wingood of the Rollins School of Public Health and colleagues found that, among black female adolescents, “[e]xposure to X-rated movies was associated with residing in a single-parent family and being monitored by someone other than one’s mother.”[2]

Jay Grosfeld of the Indiana University School of Medicine also found that children living in “single parent and broken homes” were more likely to be exposed to pornography.[3]

Elissa Benedek of the University of Michigan and Catherine Brown, executive editor of Psychiatric News, reported that children from single-parent homes are most at risk from exposure to televised pornography.[4]

As the data indicate, growing up in an intact family proves to be an effective protector against X-rated movie viewing in adolescence and in adulthood.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Center for Family and Religion at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.

[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Survey, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Gina M. Wingood, et al., “Exposure to X-rated Movies and Adolescents’ Sexual and Contraceptive-Related Attitudes and Behaviors,” Pediatrics, vol. 107 (2001): 1116-1119.

[3] Jay Grosfeld, “The Plight of Children,” Annals of Surgery, vol. 246 (2007): 343-350.

[4] Elissa P. Benedek and Catherine F. Brown, “No Excuses: Televised Pornography Harms Children,” Harvard Review of Psychiatry, vol. 7 (1999): 236-240.

Intergenerational Links to Viewing X-Rated Movies: Religious Attendance and Family Structure

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This chart is taken from a study conducted by Visiting Fellow Althea Nagai, Ph.D. for Family Research Council.

Adults who frequently attended religious services as adolescents and grew up living with both biological parents are less likely to have viewed an X-rated film in the past year.

According to the General Social Survey (GSS), 21 percent of adults who attended religious services at least monthly and lived in an intact family as adolescents had viewed an X-rated film in the last year, compared to 34 percent of adults who attended religious services less than monthly and lived in a non-intact family as adolescents. In between were those who lived in an intact family but attended religious services less than monthly (25 percent) and those who had attended religious services at least monthly but lived in a non-intact family (28 percent).[1]

Other Studies

Though no corresponding studies have been conducted, there are several studies in related areas which indicate that high religiosity and parental involvement during adolescence encourage the development of a healthy sexuality. Carolyn Halpern of the University of North Carolina and colleagues found that religiosity and parental disapproval of sex during adolescence significantly contributed to young adults’ adoption of traditional values regarding extramarital and premarital sex.[2]

Cristina Lammers of the University of Uruguay and colleagues also reported that adolescents with greater religiosity who live in two-parent homes and believe that those parents care about them are more likely to postpone sexual intercourse.[3]

Though further research would be instructive, the available evidence suggests that intact families and religious observance during adolescence are strong indicators of a healthy and moral sexuality.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Center for Family and Religion at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.

[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Survey, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Carolyn Tucker Halpern, et al., “Adolescent Predictors of Emerging Adult Sexual Patterns,” Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 39 (2006): 926.e.1-926.e.10.

[3] Cristina Lammers, et al., “Influences on Adolescents’ Decision to Postpone Onset of Sexual Intercourse; A Survival Analysis of Virginity among Youths Aged 13 to 18 Years,” Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 26 (2000): 42-48.

Adultery by Religious Attendance

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Of adults currently or previously married, those who attend religious services once a week or more are the least likely to have committed adultery.

Description: According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), among adults currently or previously married, 12.4 percent who worship once a week or more had had sexual relations with someone other than their spouse, followed by 17.1 percent of those who worship between one and three times a month, 20.6 percent of those who worship less than once a month, and 24.8 percent of those who never attend religious services.[1]

Related Insights from Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Amy Burdette of the University of North Carolina and colleagues reported that “frequency of religious attendance is inversely associated with the likelihood of having engaged in infidelity.”[2]

Vaughn Call and Tim Heaton of Brigham Young University found that “of the dimensions of religious experience, attendance has the greatest impact on marital stability.”[3]

Judith Treas of the University of California and Irvine and Deirdre Giesen of Utrecht University also reported that “those who often attended religious services were less likely to have had multiple sex partners in the previous year.”[4]

As the data indicate, the more frequently married adults attend religious services, the less likely they are to be unfaithful to their spouses.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.

[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Surveys, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Amy M. Burdette, Christopher G. Ellison, Darren E. Sherkat, and Kurt A. Gore, “Are There Religious Variations in Marital Infidelity?” Journal of Family Issues 28 (2007): 1553-81.

[3] Vaughn R. A. Call and Tim B. Heaton, “Religious Influence on Marital Stability,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36 (1997): 382-92.

[4] Judith Treas and Deirdre Giesen, “Sexual Infidelity among Married and Cohabiting Americans,” Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (2000): 48-60.

Adultery by Marital Status

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Adults who are currently married are less likely to have committed adultery than adults who are divorced or separated.

Description: According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), adults in always-intact marriages have the lowest adultery rate (10.4 percent), compared to 22.9 percent of married, previously-divorced adults and 32.5 percent of divorced or separated adults.[1]

Related Insights from Other Studies

Paul Amato and Denise Previti of Pennsylvania State University reported that infidelity was “the most commonly reported cause of divorce.”[2] This finding follows up a previous study by Paul Amato and Stacy Rogers of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that infidelity was one of the “most consistent predictors of divorce,” along with jealousy, drug use, drinking, and spending money foolishly.[3]

As the evidence indicates, adults in always-intact marriages are less likely to have committed adultery than adults who have divorced.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.

[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Surveys, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Paul R. Amato and Denise Previti, “People’s Reasons for Divorcing: Gender, Social Class, the Life Course, and Adjustment,” Journal of Family Issues 24 (2003): 602-26.

[3] Paul R. Amato and Stacy J. Rogers, “A Longitudinal Study of Marital Problems and Subsequent Divorce,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 59 (1997): 612-24.

Adultery by Religious Attendance and Marital Status

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Adults in always-intact marriages who worship at least weekly are the least likely of all to have had adulterous sexual relations.

Description: According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), adults in always-intact marriages who attend religious services at least weekly are the most likely to be faithful to their spouses, with an adultery rate of 7.7 percent. Adults in always-intact marriages who never attend worship have a 15.3 percent rate of adultery, while among divorced or separated adults and married, previously-divorced adults, the rate is 23.3 percent for those who worship weekly and 33.8 percent for those who never worship.[1]

Related Insights from Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Mark Whisman of the University of Colorado at Boulder and colleagues reported that infidelity was “negatively associated with” religiosity and “was predicted by greater marital dissatisfaction.”[2]

Paul Amato and Stacy Rogers of the Pennsylvania State University also found that “frequent church attendance appears to lower the likelihood of divorce” and that infidelity was one of the “most consistent predictors of divorce,” along with jealousy, drug use, drinking, and spending money foolishly.[3]

As the data indicate, always-intact married adults who attend religious services at least weekly are the least likely to have committed adultery.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.

[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Surveys, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Mark A. Whisman, Kristina Koop Gordon, and Yael Chatav, “Predicting Sexual Infidelity in a Population-Based Sample of Married Individuals,” Journal of Family Psychology 21 (2007): 320-24.

[3] Paul R. Amato and Stacy J. Rogers, “A Longitudinal Study of Marital Problems and Subsequent Divorce,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 59 (1997): 612-24.