The effect of religious practice on work ethic has been a topic of investigation for many years. There has been much complaint concerning the “younger generation” concerning their reduced work ethic and tendency to be self-centered. This complaint probably has been leveled at every generation by their parents and employers.
However, there is no good research to show that being involved in church activities promotes a good work ethic which positively impacts the ability to keep a job. Just as positive values have a positive impact on math and reading scores through the effect that religious values have on homework, watching television, and reading, religious values help determine behavior outside of school. These positive values including self-control and work ethic help to contribute to improved performance at school and on the job.
Locus of Control
The “locus of control” is defined as the presence of established habits including discipline, self-control, and initiative. The locus of this control mechanism is important in determining the ultimate success of an individual. Sandra Hanson, Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of America explains,
high internal locus of control refers to the belief that one’s action and efforts, rather than fate or luck
determines the ultimate success or failure of one’s efforts. This belief in the internal local of control is linked to
the effort that students put forth and the importance they assign to working hard.
Religious practice helps to internalize a sense of internal locus of control – the sense that they bear significant responsibility for their ultimate success or failure in life. Glen Elder, Professor of Sociology and Psychology at the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill concluded that
regular participation in church services and programs strengthened self-concepts of academic achievement, work habits, and discipline.
Mark Regnerus found that higher levels in church involvement produced stronger social bonds with family and is associated with
a level of social control and motivation toward education that leads to better math and reading skills.
Another study also demonstrates that the religious involvement of adolescents is positively associated with a better sense of control over their lives that is important in shaping their attitudes and behavior. If teenagers feel like they have no control over their lives, their behavior and academic achievement tend to suffer.
It seems self-evident that when adolescents have higher educational expectations for themselves, they will have improved achievements both in school as well as on the job.
Religious teenagers have been found to have increased academic expectations for themselves. This expectation is especially strong in Vietnamese immigrants in whom frequent religious practices translate into teenagers placing greater importance on college, earning good grades, and avoiding substance abuse.
It turns out that just being in the presence of religious individuals can have a positive effect on academic performance. Youth in schools where the majority are Jewish are 14 percent more likely to plan to attend college than in schools where Jewish students are in a minority. This tendency is present when controlled for intelligence, the mother’s aspiration, occupation, and income are considered. A similar effect is also present for Catholic identity with increased expectations for academic achievement.
Habits and Skills
Children who develop the habit of attending school regularly, doing their homework without incessant prodding from their parents or teachers tend to have better school performance. An analysis of inner-city children who escaped poverty notes,
Church-going invariably raises the amount of time a youth spends on productive activity (working, searching for work, traveling to work, school-going, housework, and reading).
The fact that regular participation in religious activity is associated with improved self-discipline and work habits.
Social skills are also improved in those who attend church regularly. The Iowa longitudinal study shows that eighth-graders who participated regularly in church activities had improved social skills in the twelfth grade.
These studies all show that religious practice improves habits that are associated with increased chances for success in life.
Studies also show religious involvement is associated with improved social development. The National Survey of Children’s Health showed that children who attended religious services every week had a mean Social Development Score of 50.7 while those who never attended service had a score of 48.4. This was a very large study of the parents of 102,353 children and teenagers in 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey sample represents a population of nearly 49 million young people nationwide.
The study also found that when both parents frequently worship, their children develop improved social skills, greater interpersonal skills at school, and protection “against internalizing problem behaviors,” protection against loneliness and sadness, and protection from overactive and impulsive behaviors.
This study suggests a causal relationship between the church attendance of parents and children and the children’s social development. Research indicates that the more parents and children attend school, the better social development and coping skills the children will have.
Children who attend church are much less likely to pose behavioral problems while in school.
Behavioral problems among school children is a big problem in the United States. Some states have responded to this behavioral problem by placing the responsibility on the teachers to try to instill discipline upon unruly students. Placing responsibility upon teachers while limiting their disciplinary abilities seems inappropriate. Misbehaving children can no longer be suspended from school in California for example. Of course, this produces increased difficulty in controlling a classroom when children know they can misbehave with no significant consequences.
Unruly students recognize and take advantage of the inability of teachers to instill discipline in their classrooms. High school students more frequently threaten their teachers with physical violence or assault teachers in the classroom often with little repercussions.
California should be happy to learn that religious attendance has a significant beneficial effect on children with behavioral risks. Attendance has been shown to powerfully reduce socially deviant behavior while another found that religious activity is especially strong in reducing deviant behavior among high-risk youths compared to more affluent children.
Religious attendance has a significant effect on reducing behavioral risks. Adolescents who attended weekly religious services were less likely to use drugs or alcohol, have delinquent behavior, get in trouble at school, or have poor grades in school as compared to their peers who did not go to church. Church attendance
reinforces messages about working hard and staying out of trouble, orients [youth] toward a positive future, and builds a transferable skill-set of commitments and routines.
Stay in School
Students who are involved in religious activities are much more likely to not be suspended or expelled from school. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that among students in 7th through 12th grade, 21 percent of those who attended church every week were expelled or suspended from school while 39 percent of those who never attended school were suspended or expelled. This difference was statistically significant.
This means that the chance of deviant behavior leading to discharge from school was nearly twice as great among never church attended compared to those who attend church weekly.
This research once again shows that a good work ethic exemplified by improved behavior in school is much more common in children who attend school weekly when compared to their peers.
Children are more likely to graduate from school and do better on the job when religion is important to them. Of course, this provides a significant benefit to society in that children with a good work ethic who have productive behavior are less likely to be involved in deviant behavior.
Recently, the whole question as to whether public tax dollars should be allowed to go to vouchers for religious schools is to be decided by the Supreme Court. This is certainly a contentious issue as secular parents do not wish to see their educational tax money spend on religious education for their neighbors’ children.
The benefit to society of having children with good behavior assuming jobs and paying taxes should also be considered when these public policies are being made.