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J Stud Alcohol. 2001 Sep;62(5):696-705.

The role of religion in predicting adolescent alcohol use and problem drinking.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40506-0044, USA.



There are racial differences in adolescents' propensity to consume alcohol--with white adolescents tending to consume more alcohol than black adolescents--but there is no clear explanation for why such differences exist. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between religiosity, a cultural factor that is not well understood currently, and racial differences in adolescent alcohol use.


Participants were white and black ninth-grade adolescents (N = 899; 54% female, 57.5% white) involved in a 3-year longitudinal study of ways to reduce alcohol use and sexual risk-taking behavior among adolescents in Ohio and Kentucky.


Findings indicate that religiosity is differentially associated with alcohol use and problem drinking for white and black adolescents. Religious service attendance was the most significant predictor of alcohol use for black adolescents, whereas religious fundamentalism was most important for white adolescents. In contrast, frequency of prayer was the significant predictor of problem drinking for black adolescents, whereas the level of importance placed on religion was the significant predictor for white adolescents. Important gender differences also emerged in both prediction models and are discussed.


Since there is great heterogeneity among adolescents (in terms of race and gender) in their alcohol use and misuse, the "one-size-fits-all" approach to alcohol treatment and prevention is likely inappropriate. Moreover, conceptualizations of alcohol use and misuse, and its prevention and treatment, should include the consideration of such key cultural factors as religiosity.

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