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Contemporary research on adolescent involvement in religion and delinquency is generally traced to Hirschi and Stark’s 1969 study, titled ‘‘Hellfire and Delinquency.’’ Their study surprised many by reporting no significant relationship between religious involvement and delinquency. Subsequent replications provided mixed results, but multiple reviews, both traditional and systematic, found religious involvement to be inversely related to delinquency. However, meta-analysis of the relationship remains scant with only three studies published to date. To address this research need, we conducted a meta-analysis of 62 relevant studies over four decades, which provided 145 effect sizes from 193,656 adolescents. We examined six bivariate correlations between two, attitudinal and behavioral, measures of religious involvement (religiosity and church attendance) and three indicators of delinquent behavior (alcohol use, illicit drug use, and nondrug delinquency). Our meta-analysis results indicated an inverse relationship among all correlations (range: -.16 to -.22). Stated differently, the results of this meta-analysis confirmed that religious involvement is negatively related to delinquent behaviors, regardless of measurement characteristics. The implications of this finding for future research on religion and delinquency are discussed.

Publication Title

Criminal Justice Review

Publisher Statement

Criminal Justice Review 2015, Vol. 40(4) 505-523. Copyright 2015 Georgia State University. Reprints and permission:





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