Research Suggests Church Attendance Could Benefit Childhood Mental Health

In the nearly three years since COVID-19 began spreading around the globe, there have been countless media reports chronicling the toll that lockdowns and pandemic fears have taken on the mental health of adolescents.

Furthermore, the proliferation of social media during the same period has been tied to a rise in depression among kids.

Parenting writer Mary Rose Kulczak, however, believes another cultural trend is at play — and is encouraging families to take the steps necessary to reverse it. In a recent article, she pointed out a continuing rise in Americans who have no religious affiliation and do not attend regular church services.

Instead of taking their children to church, Kulczak argues that they seek other remedies such as “positive affirmations” and involvement in extracurricular activities in an attempt to address signs of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns.

Doing so, she wrote, ignores evidence that “children who attend weekly worship services have higher [grade point averages], score higher on standardized tests, and are less likely to be held back a grade.”

Long before the pandemic, a study by researchers at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health determined that kids who regularly attend church services were more likely to become happy adults who had lower levels of depression, drug use, and promiscuity.

As for why parents who might otherwise want to attend worship services as a family, Kulczak referenced the common refrain that children simply do not want to go to church.

“This democratic approach to family decision-making only seems to apply to church attendance, however,” she continued. For other important decisions like wearing a seatbelt or vaccinations, parents balk at giving their children voting privileges.”

Instead of allowing children to dictate whether they will or will not attend church, Kulczak urged parents to make weekly services a priority for the benefit of the entire family.

“Parents, we put our children at a disadvantage when we do not give them the very thing they need for their mental and spiritual health,” she concluded.
It is time to put a new priority on the family calendar every Sunday. If we won’t do it for ourselves (and we should), let’s do it for our children. The next generation depends on it.”

Researcher Ying Chen of the T.H. Chan School echoed her sentiment in response to the 2018 study, writing: “These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices. Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”