Is a Religious Upbringing Good for Us?

The sexual abuse scandals that plague the Catholic Church and have likewise been unearthed across Southern Baptist churches have left a trail of victims decades-long and miles-deep. But new research out of Harvard reveals potential collateral damage of these sacrilegious and criminal breaches of trust: It finds that children who are pulled from church, or religion, in the wake of these scandals might have poorer long-term health outcomes.

The research, directed by Tyler VanderWeele and published out of Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health, suggests that a religious upbringing can profoundly help adolescents navigate the challenges of those years. In fact, this first-of-its-kind longitudinal study—examining so many outcomes at once and following 5,000 adolescents over a period of eight years—found that a religious upbringing contributes positively to a wide range of health and well-being outcomes later in life.

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