Religion can inhibit juvenile delinquency
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a religious person. Yes, I reluctantly, if not peripherally, participated in my own Bar Mitzvah. Yes, I briefly had a romantic relationship with a Hebrew school teacher. But for the most part, at 33 years old, my historic personal experience around religious practice has been little more than inconsistent, unenthusiastic and half-hearted at best.Nonetheless, a 2006 study from the University of Baylor recently caught my attention. Baylors Institute for Studies of Religion and the Program on Prosocial Behavior received a $400,000 grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to establish a research initiative that examines the role religion plays in prosocial youth behavior.In my professional practice at YouthZone, I work with adolescents and their families who may be interested to learn more about this studys conclusions. Baylors research team has already amassed substantial evidence that suggests youth exposure to religious and spiritual activities, in conjunction with other environmental factors, is a powerful inhibitor of juvenile delinquency and youth violence. For example, youth who attend church frequently are less likely to engage in a variety of delinquent behaviors, including drug use, skipping school, fighting, and violent and nonviolent crimes. (http://www.baylor.edu/pr/news.php?action=story&story=42314)Now, I dont want to suggest anything that might be uncomfortable for anyone, but there might just be something to all of this! You mean, that if I participate in a community organization that promotes accountability, responsibility, stewardship, and generosity, and then encourage my family (including my children) to be a part of that community, my kids might turn out to be less likely to commit crimes? Hold the phone! These are not revelations, people. (No pun intended.)Now, I am not proposing that everyone should just run right out and join their nearest church, synagogue, mosque, Buddhist temple or mystic spirituality center for psychic healing. But perhaps it couldnt hurt. Engaging your family around any thoughtful practice or discussion which includes some manner of ethics, values, principles and social justice may, in fact, strengthen your youths willingness and enthusiasm as a contributing member of his or her community. Your adolescents are desperately seeking defined social boundaries, societal mores and opportunities for practicing integrity. Too many of the teens YouthZone has the privilege of serving simply have not had enough training in these critical areas of socialization. Far too often, their parents suffer similar deficits. This is the bedrock of YouthZones work. YouthZone recently participated in the Catholic Charities Living in the U.S. series along with a number of other valleywide agencies and organizations, which have started to look to leaders of local religious groups for collaboration. If you are a member of a local religious group and are interested in learning more about YouthZones programs and services for youth and families, please visit us online at http://www.youthzone.com or call us at 945-9300.YouthZone, a nondenominational nonprofit organization, has been quietly helping local communities raise great kids since 1976. Evan Zislis is YouthZone upvalley division manager.
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