Posts Tagged ‘social issues’

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What benefits are there to being religious?

June 21, 2011

The Challenge

Atheist authors Christopher Hitchens[1] and Richard Dawkins[2] have condemned religious belief as harmful and useless. Both authors have been criticized for failing to note specific benefits of strong religious belief. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

The Facts

Strong religious belief provides a range of physical, emotional, social, financial, psychological, and health benefits;[8] [9] reducing health risks, increasing the likelihood of longevity[10] and mental health,[11] and having a positive effect on wellbeing in childhood,[12] [13] [14] as well as later economic outcomes.[15]

High religious involvement has a positive effect on social integration,[16] [17] [18] behavioural regulation,[19] and a range of positive societal outcomes.[20] However, lower levels of religious belief, involvement, and commitment produce negative outcomes.[21] [22]


[1] ‘God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’ (2007).

[2] ‘The God Delusion’ (2006).

[3] ‘Unfortunately, however, both authors either fail to appreciate, or have chosen not to acknowledge, the extraordinary importance that a very “personal God” may play in the lives of many individuals forced to deal with these profoundly life-changing situations.’, Markman, ‘Benefits of Religious Beliefs for Cancer Patients: A Response to Dawkins and Hitchens’, Current Oncology Reports (10.185), 2008.

[4] ‘But there is increasingly strong evidence that when confronted with a life-changing challenge such as being diagnosed with a malignancy, a genuine human need exists, as noted by Professor Dawkins and Mr. Hitchins’s headmaster, for the presence of personal spiritual support.’, ibid., p. 185.

[5] ‘Empiric evidence exists that a cancer patient’s ability to successfully deal with spiritual issues at the end of life is associated with less overwhelming despair and intense feelings of hopelessness [15]. Effective coping with these concerns can favorably impact the quality of life [16]. Existing data also support the hypothesis that it is the impact of a general feeling of spiritual well-being—not specific religious beliefs or practices—that is correlated with the favorable effect [17].’, ibid., p. 186.

[6]the overwhelming existing evidence demonstrates that some patients with malignant disease may experience considerable benefit from a strong sense of spiritual well being and the presence of a “personal God.”’, ibid., p. 187.

[7] ‘It is unfortunate that Professor Dawkins and Mr. Hitchens were not willing to fully acknowledge the relevance of these points.’, ibid., p. 187.

[8]Many studies have documented the benefits of religious involvement. Indeed, highly religious people tend to be healthier, live longer, and have higher levels of subjective well-being.’, Mochon, Norton, & Ariely, ‘Who Benefits from Religion?’, Social Indicators Research (101.1), 2010.

[9] It is recognized that not all religious systems provide such benefits; for example, some groups result in negative outcomes due to prejudice against education, or to oppressive power structures and failure to reinforce positive behaviours.

[10] ‘Similarly, although there are exceptions and the matter remains controversial (Sloan et al. 1999), a growing body of research documents an association between religious involvement and better outcomes on a variety of physical health measures, including problems related to heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, gastrointestinal disease, as well as overall health

status and life expectancy. This research also points to differences by religious affiliation, with members of stricter denominations displaying an advantage (Levin 1994). Many of the early studies in this literature suffer from methodological shortcomings, including small, unrepresentative samples, lack of adequate statistical controls, and a cross-sectional design that confounds the direction of causality. Yet the conclusion of a generally positive effect of religious involvement on physical health and longevity also emerges from a new generation of studies that have addressed many of these methodological problems (Ellison and Levin 1998). In one of the most rigorous analyses to date, Hummer et al. (1999) use longitudinal data from a nationwide survey, the 1987 Cancer Risk Factor Supplement–Epidemiology Study, linked to the Multiple Cause of Death file. Their results show that the gap in life expectancy at age 20 between those who attend religious services more than once a week and those who never attend is more than seven years—comparable to the male–female and white–black differentials in the United States. Additional multivariate analyses of these data reveal a strong association between religious participation and the risk of death, holding constant socioeconomic and demographic variables, as well as initial health status. Other recent longitudinal studies also report a protective effect of religious involvement against disability among the elderly (Idler and Kasl 1992), as well as a positive influence on self-rated health (Musick 1996) and longevity (Strawbridge et al. 1997).’, Waite & Lehrer, ‘The Benefits from Marriage and Religion in the United States: A Comparative Analysis’, p. 2 (author manuscript 2003).

[11] ‘The connection between religion and mental health has been the subject of much controversy over the years, and many psychologists and psychiatrists remain skeptical, in part because most of the research has been based on cross-sectional analyses of small samples. The studies to date are suggestive of an association between religious involvement and better mental health outcomes, including greater self-esteem, better adaptation to bereavement, a lower incidence of depression and anxiety, a lower likelihood of alcohol and drug abuse, and greater life satisfaction and happiness in general (Koenig et al. 2001). Recent longitudinal analyses of subgroups of the population provide additional evidence in support of this relationship (Zuckerman et al. 1984; Levin et al. 1996).’, ibid., p. 3.

[12] Religious participation has also been associated with better educational outcomes. Freeman (1986) finds a positive effect of churchgoing on school attendance in a sample of inner-city black youth. Regnerus (2000) reports that participation in religious activities is related to better test scores and heightened educational expectations among tenth-grade public school students. In the most comprehensive study to date, using data on adolescents from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, Muller and Ellison (2001) find positive effects of various measures of religious involvement on the students’ locus of control (a measure of self-concept), educational expectations, time spent on homework, advanced mathematics credits earned, and the probability of obtaining a high school diploma.’, ibid., p. 4.

[13] ‘Several studies have documented an association between religion and children’s well-being. Recent research on differences in parenting styles by religious affiliation reveals that conservative Protestants display distinctive patterns: they place a greater emphasis on obedience and tend to view corporal punishment as an acceptable form of child discipline; at the same time, they are more likely to avoid yelling at children and are more prone to frequent praising and warm displays of affection (Bartowski et al. 2000). As to other dimensions of religion, Pearce and Axinn (1998) find that family religious involvement promotes stronger ties among family members and has a positive impact on mothers’ and children’s reports of the quality of their relationship. A number of studies document the effects of children’s own religious participation, showing that young people who grow up having some religious involvement tend to display better outcomes in a range of areas. Such involvement has been linked to a lower probability of substance abuse and juvenile delinquency (Donahue and Benson 1995), a lower incidence of depression among some groups (Harker 2001), delayed sexual debut (Bearman and Bruckner 2001), more positive attitudes toward marriage and having children, and more negative attitudes toward unmarried sex and premarital childbearing (Marchena and Waite 2001).’, ibid., p. 4.

[14] ‘Overall, we find strong evidence that youth with religiously active parents are less affected later in life by childhood disadvantage than youth whose parents did not frequently attend religious services. These buffering effects of religious organizations are most pronounced when outcomes are measured by high school graduation or non-smoking and when disadvantage is measured by family resources or maternal education, but we also find buffering effects for a number of other outcome-disadvantage pairs. We generally find much weaker buffering effects for other social organizations.’, Dehejia et al., ‘The Role of Religious and Social Organizations in the Lives of Disadvantaged Youth’, NBER Working Paper No. 13369 (2007).

[15] ‘However, as we discuss below, an emerging literature shows a positive effect of religiosity on educational attainment, a key determinant of success in the labor market. These studies suggest a potentially important link between religious involvement during childhood and adolescence and subsequent economic well-being as an adult. Preliminary results from a new line of inquiry at the macro level are consistent with this hypothesis. Using a cross-country panel that includes information on religious and economic variables, Barro and McLeary (2002) find that enhanced religious beliefs affect economic growth positively, although growth responds negatively to increased church attendance. The authors interpret their findings as reflecting a positive association between “productivity” in the religion sector and macroeconomic performance.’, ibid., p. 3.

[16] ‘Ellison and George (1994) find that people who frequently attend religious services not only have larger social networks, but also hold more positive perceptions of the quality of their social relationships.’, Waite & Lehrer, ‘The Benefits from Marriage and Religion in the United States: A Comparative Analysis’, p. 7 (author manuscript 2003).

[17] ‘Recent research has emphasized that religion can play a pivotal role in the socialization of youth by contributing to the development of social capital. Religious congregations often sponsor family activities, stimulating the cultivation of closer parent–child relations; they also bring children together with grandparents and other supportive adults (parents of peers, Sunday-school teachers) in an environment of trust. This broad base of social ties can be a rich source of positive role models, confidants, useful information, and reinforcement of values that promote educational achievement.’, ibid., p. 7.

[18] ‘At the other end of the age spectrum, the social ties provided by religious institutions are of special value to the elderly, helping them deal with the many difficult challenges that tend to accompany old age: illness, dependency, loss, and loneliness (Levin 1994).’, ibid., p. 7.

[19]Most faiths have teachings that encourage healthy behaviors and discourage conduct that is self-destructive; they also provide moral guidance about sexuality. Some religions have specific regulations limiting or prohibiting the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and potentially harmful foods. Several studies show that religious involvement is generally associated with health-promoting behaviors (Koenig et al. 2001) and that such behaviors explain in part the connection between religion and longevity (Strawbridge et al. 1997; Hummer et al. 1999).’, ibid., p. 7.

[20] ‘At the societal level, higher religious involvement is related to increased levels of education (Gruber 2005), lower crime rates (Baier and Wright 2001; Johnson et al. 2000), increases in civic involvement (Putnam 2000; Ruiter and De Graaf 2006), higher levels of cooperation (Norenzayan and Shariff 2008; Shariff and Norenzayan 2007), lower divorce rates, higher marital satisfaction and better child adjustment (Mahoney et al. 2001; for a review, see Sherkat and Ellison 1999).’, Mochon, Norton, & Ariely, ‘Who Benefits from Religion?’, Social Indicators Research (101.2), 2010.

[21]While fervent believers benefit from their involvement, those with weaker beliefs are actually less happy than those who do not ascribe to any religion—atheists and agnostics..’, ibid., p. 1.

[22]Indeed, weakly affiliated adherents may actually be less happy than their unaffiliated counterparts—atheists, agnostics, and those who report no religion at all—and therefore would appear to benefit from abandoning their faith.’, ibid., p. 2.

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Sexualized media & sex education

February 8, 2011

Christians have objected for decades to the sexualized imagery of secular media, [1] [2] [3] [4] citing Biblical principles [5] [6] and arguing that such content is damaging, [7] especially to young people. [8] Though such objections are derided by popular opinion as ‘old fashioned’, numerous professional studies confirm they are factually based. [9] [10]

Children are highly affected by sexual content on TV,[11] resulting in a range of negative outcomes.[12] [13] [14] [15] Girls are highly vulnerable;[16] [17] [18] [19] [20] objectification of girls is related to many destructive behaviours.[21]

Reliance on abstinence advice alone is unrealistic, as this can be, and often is, displaced by over sexualised media content. Comprehensive sex education in which the benefits of abstinence are emphasized[22] [23] and appropriate information on contraception is provided, reduces both the age of sexual initiation, and teen pregnancy rates.[24] [25]


[1] ‘Papers that cater for the evil in men and women should be shunned by all who are concerned for clean and healthy thinking and living.’, Carter, ‘Sunday Reading’, The Christadelphian (90.1072.309), 1953.

[2] ‘Worse even than the violence and the ridicule of all the kindly virtues is the preoccupation with sex. The reviewer says it is enough to glance through half a dozen “comics” to see that they are “thinly disguised pornography”.’, Sargent, ‘The Social Sign: “Horror Comics”’, The Christadelphian (92.1090.144), 1955.

[3] ‘Our eyes, ears, and minds are assaulted by magazine, poster, radio and television advertisements which set out to stimulate the wrong kind of emotions by making sex, drink and the different ways of having “a good time” seem attractive and proper.’, Marshall, ‘The New Life 6: A Dangerous World’, The Christadelphian (105.1250.350), 1968.

[4] ‘—the increased problem of drugs taken by the young, the addiction of both young and old alike to the T.V. set, and the new morality—which I am sure should be called the “old immorality”—where sex is pushed at every opportunity by every conceivable method’, Billington, ‘Life in the Arctic’, The Christadelphian (108.1284.249), 1971.

[5] ‘Or is there an altogether too easy tendency to lustful thoughts? Then let the conning of certain modern magazines be utterly banned, and let the modern sex-ridden novel—one of the curses of this generation—be wisely consigned to the dustbin. “If thine eye cause thee to stumble, pluck it out.”’, Whittaker, ‘Sunday Morning: No. 924 Temptation’, The Christadelphian (93.1109.402), 1956.

[6]The way of Cain is still very much with us. It glorifies man, it boastfully glorifies debased sex, brutality and violence in print, on screen and in reality.’, Eyre, ‘The Way of Cain’, The Christadelphian (103.1221.101), 1966.

[7] ‘In attempting a definition, the committee says that “pornography tends to see sexual practices as divorced from any tender considerations for one’s partner . . . (It) exploits and dehumanises sex so that human beings are treated as things and women in particular as sex objects”. There is plenty of evidence that it sometimes does harm.’, Nichols, ‘Signs of the Times: The Longford Report’, The Christadelphian (109.1301.512), 1972.

[8] ‘He continued: “What is true is that from this age onwards the adolescent is subjected to a barrage from every medium of communication and entertainment of stimuli which leads to a premature and excessive awareness and preoccupation with sex.”’, Sargent, ‘A Wholesome Voice’, The Christadelphian (100.1193.512), 1963.

[9] ‘There is increasing evidence that youth exposure to sexual content on television shapes sexual attitudes and behavior in a manner that may influence reproductive health outcomes.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1047), 2008.

[10]‘Several studies 16,111,112,114,121,134 have demonstrated clearly that sexual content is pervasive in TV programming, movies, music videos, and magazines; however, much less is known about sexual content on the radio (including remarks by disc jockeys) and the sexual content of video and computer games.’, Escobar-Chaves, et al., ‘Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors’, Pediatrics (116.1.320), 2005.

[11] ‘”I was surprised at how much 18- to 20-year-olds are still affected by media’s messages about sex” Ward says. “When we first started our research, we assumed that 15-year-olds who largely hadn’t started dating yet would have much of their reality shaped by the media. They don’t know the difference sometimes [between media reality and real life] and don’t have the maturity to make informed choices about sex. But 18- to 20-year-olds are at the pinnacle, so to speak, when it comes to dating and relationships. They’re older, more mature, less naive. And they’re still affected.”’, Stewart, ‘Sex-Saturated Culture Sends Message to Kids’, Insight on the News (May 22, 2000).

[12]This is the first study to demonstrate a prospective link between exposure to sexual content on television and the experience of a pregnancy before the age of 20. Limiting adolescent exposure to the sexual content on television and balancing portrayals of sex in the media with information about possible negative consequences might reduce the risk of teen pregnancy. Parents may be able to mitigate the influence of this sexual content by viewing with their children and discussing these depictions of sex.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1047), 2008..

[13] ‘Adolescents in the United States are engaging in sexual activity at early ages and with multiple partners. The mass media have been shown to affect a broad range of adolescent health-related attitudes and behaviors including violence, eating disorders, and tobacco and alcohol use. One largely unexplored factor that may contribute to adolescents’ sexual activity is their exposure to mass media.’, Escobar-Chaves, et al., ‘Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors’, Pediatrics (116.1.303), 2005.

[14] ‘Using the sexual-media–diet measure, these researchers report that among adolescents, heavier exposure to sexual content is associated with increased sexual activity and intentions to become sexually active’, ibid., p. 320.

[15]Our results indicate that frequent exposure to sexual content on television predicts early pregnancy, even after accounting for the influence of a variety of other known correlates of each.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1052), 2008.

[16] ‘Narrative accounts of court-involved girls lives uncovered three social forces that combined to contribute to high rates of system involvement. I have discussed two: the emotional factor of familes’ not protecting their girl children or meeting young women’s needs and the economic factor of material need. In this section I dissect the cultural factor of an increased sexualization of young women caused by the global, burgeoning, multi-billion-dollar youth-sex-beauty industrial complex.’, Schaffner, ‘Girls in Trouble with the Law’, p. 98 (2006).

[17] ‘I mean oversexualized in the sense that young women are viewed primarily as sex objects by many male adults in their worlds, view their own place in the world as mostly providing sexual titillation for males, and see sex as their best – or only – resource for problem solving.’, ibid., p. 99.

[18] ‘Young women, bombarded with the cultural imperative to be sexy, reproduce the message as if they had thought of it themselves, thus falling into a dialectical, reflexive loop.’, ibid., p. 102

[19] ‘Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and psychologists have become alarmed, arguing that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls (Bloom, 2004;“Buying Into Sexy,” 2005; Dalton, 2005; Lamb & Brown, 2006; Levin, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Linn, 2004; Pollet & Hurwitz, 2004; Schor, 2004).’, American Psychological Association,Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, ‘Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.Washington’, (2007).

[20] ‘This includes both short- and long-term effects of viewing or buying into a sexualizing objectifying image, how these effects influence girls’ development, self-esteem, friendships, and intimate relationships, ideas about femininity, body image, physical, mental, and sexual health, sexual satisfaction, desire for plastic surgery, risk factors for early pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted infections, attitudes toward women, other girls, boys, and men, as well as educational aspirations and future career success.’, ibid., p. 43.

[21]Numerous studies have shown a connection between stereotypical attitudes about women’s sexuality and aggressive sexual behavior. Several have shown that women and men exposed to sexually objectifying images from mainstream media were significantly more accepting of rape myths, sexual harassment, sex role stereotypes, interpersonal violence, and adversarial sexual beliefs about relationships.’, Bailey, ‘Consequences Of the Sexualization of Girls: American Psychological Association Report Part IV’, From Now On: The Newsletter of the Montgomery County Chapter of the National Organization for Women (2007).

[22] ‘APHA further recognizes that abstinence from sexual intercourse is an important behavioral strategy for preventing HIV, STIs, and unintended pregnancy.’, American Public Health Association, ‘Testimony of the American Public Health Association “Domestic Abstinence-Only Programs: Assessing the Evidence” House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’, (April 23, 2008).

[23] ‘The Society of Adolescent Medicine summarized its expert review of sexuality education with the following: Abstinence from sexual intercourse represents a healthy choice for teenagers, as teenagers face considerable risk to their reproductive health from unintended pregnancies and STIs including infection with HIV. Remaining abstinent, at least through high school, is strongly supported by parents and even by adolescents themselves. However, few Americans remain abstinent until marriage, many do not or cannot marry, and most initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual behaviors as adolescents. Abstinence as a behavioral goal is not the same as abstinence-only education programs.’, Blythe, ‘Testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’, p. 7 (April 23, 2008).

[24] ‘By contrast, credible research clearly demonstrates that some comprehensive sex education, or “abstinence-plus,” programs can achieve positive behavioral changes among young people and reduce STIs, and that these programs do not encourage young people to initiate sexual activity earlier or have more sexual partners.’, Collins, et al., ‘Abstinence only vs. comprehensive sex education: What are the arguments? What is the evidence?’, p. 2 (March 2002).

[25] ‘Comprehensive sex education, which emphasizes the benefits of abstinence while also teaching about contraception and disease-prevention methods, has been proven to reduce rates of teen pregnancy and STD infection.’, Starkman & Rajani, ‘The Case for Comprehensive Sex Education’, AIDS Patient Care and STDs (16.7.313),  July 1, 2002.

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Social effects of divorce

February 7, 2011

Conservative Christians have traditionally been known for their opposition to divorce. Various Biblical statements discourage divorce,[1][2] and reinforce the value of marriage,[3] [4] a value which is well recognized by professional studies.[5] [6] [7]

Many studies have demonstrated the long term negative effects of divorce on the individuals involved [8] [9] [10] [11] and on society.[12] [13]

Single parenting is a strong and reliable predictor of poor life outcomes for children,[14] [15] even when a single mother remarries.[16]

Fatherless families are strongly associated with negative life outcomes. [17] [18] [19] Outcomes for children with two parents are consistently better.[20] [21]

The common belief that cohabitation before marriage provides a more reliable basis for future marriage stability than non-cohabitation,[22] has consistently been proved false;[23] the opposite is in fact the case.[24] [25]


[1] Matthew 19:8 Jesus said to them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts, but from the beginning it was not this way. 9 Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.”

[2] 1 Corinthians 7:12 To the rest I say – I, not the Lord – if a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is happy to live with him, he should not divorce her.13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is happy to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified because of the wife, and the unbelieving wife because of her husband. Otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever wants a divorce, let it take place. In these circumstances the brother or sister is not bound. God has called you in peace.

[3] Proverbs 5:18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in your young wife –

[4] Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, 27 so that he may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one has ever hated his own body but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 for we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great – but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

[5] ‘Compared with unmarried people, married men and women tend to have lower mortality, less risky behavior, more monitoring of health, more compliance with medical regimens, higher sexual frequency, more satisfaction with their sexual lives, more savings, and higher wages (1–3). The differences between married and unmarried people may reflect a causal effect of marriage or a selection effect. Healthier people may be more likely than others to find mates and marry. Research has suggested that the benefits of marriage may be partially due to a selection effect and partially due to true benefits to be gained from being married as opposed to being unmarried (3,4). A lower mortality risk among the married has been shown to persist even after health in early adulthood was controlled, suggesting that at least part of the benefit of being married is not the result of selection (4).’, National Center for Health Statistics/Center for Disease Control, ‘Public Affairs, Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States’, Series Report 23, Number 22, p. 3 (2002).

[6] ‘The weight of evidence indicates that the traditional family based upon a married father and mother is still the best environment for raising children, and it forms the soundest basis for the wider society.’, O’Neill, ‘Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family’, p. 14 (2002).

[7] ‘Marriage is associated with a variety of positive outcomes, and dissolution of marriage is associated with negative outcomesfor men, women, and their children’, National Center for Health Statistics/Center for Disease Control, ‘Public Affairs, Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States’, Series Report 23, Number 22, p. 3 (2002).

[8]The paper shows that divorce has a longlasting, negative impact on wellbeing and the effects appear to persist into later life for both men and women. However, the negative effects of divorce on wellbeing are largely confined to those who do not re-partner and remain single. An important difference between men and women is that for women who are divorced and single, negative effects of divorce are found for general health, vitality and mental health, while for men, there appear to be no effects of divorce on these health measures.’, Gray et al., ‘Divorce and the wellbeing of older Australians’, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Research paper No. 46, p. ix (2010).

[9] ‘When satisfaction with different aspects of life (home, financial situation, feeling of safety, etc.) are examined, divorced single men reported being less satisfied than married and never divorced men in relation to the home in which they live, their financial situation, feeling part of their local community, and the neighbourhood in which they live., ibid., p. 11.

[10] ‘An implication of the results of this report is that older Australians who have been divorced and are single in older age will have lower incomes and fewer assets than they would have had if they had remained married. Older divorced single Australians are much more likely to experience material hardships and report having a lower level of prosperity than the married and never-divorced.’, de Vaus, et al., ‘The consequences of divorce for financial living standards in later life’, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Research paper No. 38, p. 21 (2007).

[11]Compared to married individuals, divorced persons exhibit lower levels of psychological well-being, more health problems, greater risk of mortality, more social isolation, less satisfying sex lives, more negative life events, greater levels of depression and alcohol use, and lower levels of happiness and self-acceptance (5).’, NCHS/CDC Public Affairs, Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States’, Series Report 23, Number 22, pp. 3-4 (2002).

[12] ‘The negative effects of divorce on wellbeing are likely to have negative economic consequences for society as a whole, particularly in relation to the health consequences for women, which are likely to increase the demand for publicly funded or subsidised health services. It is clear that the costs to government of divorce last for two or more decades.’, Gray et al., ‘Divorce and the wellbeing of older Australians’, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Research paper No. 46, p. ix (2010).

[13] ‘However, many scholars and policy makers who study crime have identified family breakdown as one among a cluster of disadvantages which are associated with criminal activity and with chronic reoffending.’, O’Neill, ‘Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family’, p.11 (2002).

[14] ‘Adverse outcomes accrue to children of divorce and children raised in single-parent families.’, NCHS/CDC Public Affairs, Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States’, Series Report 23, Number 22, p. 4 (2002).

[15] ‘Single-parent families have lower levels of parental involvement in school activities and lower student achievement, compared to two-parent families (10). Children raised in single-parent families are more likely to drop out of high school, have lower grades and attendance while in school, and are less likely to attend and graduate from college than children raised in two-parent families (11). They are more likely to be out of school and unemployed and are also more likely to become single parents themselves, than children raised in two-parent families (11).’, ibid, p. 4.

[16] ‘Even when the mother does remarry, studies suggest that children in stepfamilies have similar risks of adverse outcomes as children in single-parent families: both groups of children do worse than children living with two biological parents in terms of academic achievement, depression, and behavior problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, premarital sexual intercourse, and being arrested (9).’, ibid., p. 4.

[17] ‘It has long been recognised that children growing up in lone-mother households are more likely to have emotional, academic, and financial problems and are more likely to engage in behaviour associated with social exclusion, such as offending, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse or worklessness.’, O’Neill, ‘Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family’, p. 6 (2002).

[18] ‘Analysis of 35 cases of fatal abuse which were the subject of public inquiries between 1968 and 1987 showed a risk for children living with their mother and an unrelated man which was over 70 times higher than it would have been for a child with two married biological parents.’, ibid., p. 8.

[19] ‘In focus group discussions, young people in prisons spoke frequently about disruption in their family lives and about their fathers’ absence.’, ibid., p. 8.

[20] ‘Studies have found that, compared to children in two-parent families, children of divorce score lower on measures of self-concept, social competence, conduct, psychological adjustment and long-term health (5).’, ibid., p. 4.

[21] ‘A major longitudinal study of 1,400 American families found that 20%–25% of children of divorce showed lasting signs of depression, impulsivity (risk-taking), irresponsibility, or antisocial behaviour compared with 10% of children in intact two-parent families.’, O’Neill, ‘Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family’, p. 7 (2002).

[22] ‘The popular belief that cohabitation is an effective strategy in a high-divorce society rests on the common-sense notion that getting to know one another before marrying should improve the quality and stability of marriage.’, Hall & Zhao, ‘Cohabitaiton and Divorce in Canada: Testing the Selectivity Hypothesis’, Journal of Marriage and the Family (57.421), 1995.

[23] ‘However, in this instance, it is looking more and more as if common sense is a poor guide. Major empirical studies have failed to discover a positive link between premarital cohabitation and marital quality or stability.’, ibid., pp. 421-422.

[24] ‘Bentler and Newcomb (1978) found no difference in marital satisfaction between cohabitors and noncohabitors, and more recent studies have suggested that living common-law is actually related to lower quality marriages (Booth & Johnson, 1988; DeMaris & Leslie, 1984). Perhaps most compelling are the findings from several recent articles that document a strong negative association between cohabiting and marital stability. These studies indicating that living together before marriage substantially increases the chances of divorce for a couple (Balakrishnan, Rao, Lapierrre-Adamcyk, & Krotki, 1987; Bennett, Blanc, & Bloom, 1988; DeMaris & Rao, 1992; Teachman & Polonko, 1990).’, ibid., p. 422.

[25] ‘Among the findings in the report: unmarried cohabitations overall are less stable than marriages.’, National Center for Health Statistics, ‘New Report Sheds Light on Trends and Patterns in Marriage, Divorce, and Cohabitation’, July 24, 2002.

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Social effects of media

February 6, 2011

Conservative Christians have been known for their historic opposition to TV in general, and to violent media in particular, on the basis of Biblical statements identified as relevant to the subject.[1] [2] [3] Numerous studies confirm that such opposition is well founded.

Typical media content has been identified as having a negative impact on the behavior of impressionable minors,[4] [5] with a particularly strong correlation between violent media and violent behavior.[6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

Studies indicate evidence for TV’s negative influence, even unrelated to actual content.[11] [12]

Numerous studies demonstrate that the actual medium of TV itself has a negative impact, regardless of the content being viewed,[13] vindicating cautions about the negative impact of TV viewing on children’s physical development which are over 40 years old.[14] [15]

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to limit their children’s exposure to TV significantly, and to encourage traditional forms of play,[16] strikingly similar to what conservative Christian parents have recommended for literally decades.

Studies have indicated the same dangers for computer use. [17] Violent content has been identified as a specific concern,[18] [19] [20] while there is little to demonstrate that home computer use contributes significantly to positive academic performance.[21]


[1] Psalm 119: 37 Turn my eyes away from what is worthless! Revive me with your word!

[2] Proverbs 4: 23 Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life. 24 Remove perverse speech from your mouth; keep devious talk far from your lips.

[3] Philippians 4: 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.

[4] ‘During this period of heightened concerns about attractiveness and sensitivity to cultural norms, children are bombarded with media messages that often promote, although usually indirectly, high-risk behavior. Studies of smoking and alcohol use in youth suggest that media do affect behavior (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992; Oei & Baldwin, 1992). Smoking, alcohol consumption, sex, and violence are prominent in television and even in computer games and comic books. Media messages related to children’s developing sexuality usually promote rather than discourage sexual activity.’, Stipek, de la Sota, & Weishaupt, ‘Life Lessons: An Embedded Classroom Approach to Preventing High-Risk Behaviours among Preadolescents’, The Elementary School Journal (99.5.435), 1999.

[5] ‘The importance of media is evident in findings that young adolescents who develop eating disorders are relatively more exposed to media (especially reading magazines and watching television soap operas; Harrison, 1997; Harrison & Cantor, 1997; Tiggemann & Pickering, 1996).’, ibid., p. 435.

[6] ‘Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center’s Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Research Center have shown that watching violent programs can cause parts of your brain that suppress aggressive behaviors to become less active.’, Craig, ‘This is your brain on violent media’, Columbia University Medical Center, December 2007.

[7] ‘A secondary finding was that after repeated viewings of violence, an area of the brain associated with planning behaviors became more active. This lends further support to the idea that exposure to violence diminishes the brain’s ability to inhibit behavior-related processing.’, ibid.

[8] ‘Considering our regression analyses (i.e., step 2a in Table 2), it can be seen that violent media exposure does relate meaningfully and significantly to engagement in violence and aggression even after controlling the substantial effects of sex and age.’, Boxer et al., ‘The Role of Violent Media Preference in Cumulative Developmental Risk for Violence and General Aggression’, J Youth Adolescence (38.425), 2009.

[9] ‘Furthermore, even for those lowest in other risk factors, a preference for violent media was predictive of violent behavior and general aggression. This finding is consistent with earlier research showing that even low-aggressive individuals are affected by media violence (Eron et al. 1972).’, ibid., p. 425.

[10] ‘Even if we consider only those studies that have most thoroughly met the standards of critics, (3) the pattern of results still supports the conclusion that television violence leads to increased aggression. As a result, there is widespread agreement among credible authorities that television violence does increase children’s aggression and fears. Reports supporting the conclusion have been circulated by the United States Surgeon General, (4) the Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications Industry, (5) the American National Institute of Mental Health, (6) UNESCO, (7) the American Psychological Association, (8) the CRTC, (9) and the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Communications and Culture. (10)’, Josephson, ‘Television Violence: A Review of the Effects on Children of Different Ages’, report for the Department of Canadian Heritage, February 1995.

[11] ‘Early television exposure is associated with attentional problems at age 7. Efforts to limit television viewing in early childhood may be warranted, and additional research is needed.’, Christakis et al., ‘A. Early Television Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems in Children’, Pediatrics (113.4.708), 2004.

[12]‘We found that early exposure to television was associated with subsequent attentional problems. This finding was present even while controlling for a number of potential confounding factors, including prenatal substance use and gestational age, measures of maternal psychopathology, and socioeconomic status. The magnitude of the risk associated with television viewing, expressed in our analysis in terms of hours per day of television viewed, is clinically significant when one considers the full range of hours of television viewed in our sample (0–16). A 1-SD increase in the number of hours of television watched at age 1 is associated with a 28% increase in the probability of having attentional problems at age 7. This result is robust and stable over time—a similar effect size is obtained for the number of hours of television watched at age 3. To our knowledge, ours is the first study to test the hypothesis of very early television viewing on subsequent inattention using a nationally representative longitudinal sample.’, ibid., p. 710; the study noted a number of caveats, such as the need for further study and the fact that a direct causal link was not established, though the correlation is clinically significant.

[13]‘In 1980, Boys Town published an exhaustive review of nearly 3,000 studies of television’s impact on children conducted over the previous 25 years, concluding that television can exert a powerful influence independent of the particular content portrayed on the screen. The simple availability of television was associated with delayed development in a child’s verbal skills and in the amount of effort applied to academic tasks.’, Wartella & Jennings, ‘Children and Computers: New Technology. Old Concerns’, The Future of Children (10.2.34), 2000.

[14] ‘Excessive viewing may encourage passivity and may limit play experiences with other children or alone.’, Appell, ‘Television Viewing and the Preschool Child’,  Marriage And Family Living, (25.3.315), 1963.

[15]These are principally unintended, noncontent, or unnoticed effects of television. For example, the child who spends four hours a day between the ages of three and eighteen watching television, as millions do, has spent some 22,000 hours in passive inactivity as opposed to exercising (to develop his physical fitness), or relating to his parents (to prevent a “generation gap”) and so on. What he watches doesn’t alter these effects materially.’, Skornia, ‘What TV Is Doing to America: Some Unexpected Consequences’, Journal of Aesthetic Education (3.3.29-30), 1969.

[16] ‘To minimize the increased risk of obesity, as well as several other harmful effects of extensive media exposure, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to limit children’s time spent with computers, video games, and other media to perhaps no more than one to two hours a day, and to emphasize alternative activities such as imaginative play and sports.’, Shields & Behrman, ‘Children and Computer Technology: Analysis and Recommendations’, The Future of Children, (10.2.6), 2000.

[17] ‘Excessive, unmonitored use of computers, especially when combined with use of other screen technologies, such as television, can place children at risk for harmful effects on their physical, social, and psychological development. Children need physical activity, social interaction, and the love and guidance of caring adults to be healthy, happy, and productive.14 Too much time in front of a screen can deprive children of time for organized sports and other social activities that are beneficial to child development.15 In addition, children may be exposed to violent, sexual, or commercial content beyond their years, with long-term negative effects.16 To ensure healthy and appropriate use of computers both at school and at home, children’s computer time must be limited and their exposure to different types of content must be supervised.’, Shields & Behrman, ‘Children and Computer Technology: Analysis and Recommendations’, The Future of Children, (10.2.6), 2000.

[18] ‘In addition, however, just as research has documented that watching violent films and television programming can lead to increased hostility and aggression in children,36 some research also suggests an association between playing violent computer games and increased aggression. 37 Although the causal direction of the association is unclear, the critical variable linked to subsequent aggressive behavior appears to be the child’s preference for playing such games.’, ibid., p. 8.

[19] ‘Of most concern are the findings that playing violent computer games may increase aggressiveness and desensitize a child to suffering, and that the use of computers may blur a child’s ability to distinguish real life from simulation.’, Subrahmanyam et al., ‘The Impact of Home Computer Use on Children’s Activities and Development’, The Future of Children (10.2.123), 2000.

[20]The strongest evidence examining how home computer use affects children builds on the studies of television concerning physical effects and violent content. The evidence on physical effects links the sedentary nature of computer use to an increased risk of obesity. Children should limit their time with media and should be taught to use computers safely to avoid the types of eye, back, and wrist injuries that have plagued adult computer users. In addition, the evidence on violent content links exposure to violent computer games to increased aggressive behavior.’, ibid., p. 139.

[21] ‘While use of a home computer is widely assumed to have a positive impact on children’s learning, little research exists to confirm this assumption. The limited evidence available suggests that home computer use is linked to slightly better academic performance, but these studies failed to control for other factors. Thus, it is difficult to know whether a child’s academic performance reflects use of a home computer or a greater level of family income and education-factors that are highly correlated with both home computer ownership and better academic performance.’, Shields & Behrman, ‘Children and Computer Technology: Analysis and Recommendations’, The Future of Children, (10.2.9), 2000.