Children of religious parents less likely to commit suicide than those raised by nonbelievers, study claims

Children of religious parents less likely to commit suicide than those raised by nonbelievers, study claims

Children born to religious parents are less inclined to commit suicide, according to a new study on the topic.

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Centre looked at evidence spanning 30 years and three generations of families in order to determine whether religion had any effect on the rate of suicide among teenagers.

In doing so, they uncovered a link between spiritual parents, mainly Christian, and decreased suicide rates among their offspring.

Not only were children with religious parents found to be less likely to end their lives than those whose parents were nonbelievers but, according to the researchers, the positive impact of religious parents was felt regardless of whether the children were believers themselves.

The spirituality of the parents was also found to have a greater impact than any other factor including gender, divorce rates, and depression.

Researchers led by Dr. Priya Wickramaratne analysed 214 children aged between six and 18 from 112 nuclear families.

The majority of these test subject families were white and Christian (85 percent), and four out of five parents (80 percent) surveyed were either married or remarried.

Data gleaned from children and adolescents whose parents were classed as either at high or low risk of major depressive disorder was used in the study, with researchers identifying these candidates based on any hereditary tendencies towards depression.

The researchers said: "While the role of offspring's own religiosity on their suicidal behaviour has been limited, there have been no studies examining the contribution of a parent's own religiosity to an offspring's suicidal behaviour, to our knowledge."

"Prior studies have demonstrated positive associations of parent religiosity on children's physical and mental outcomes."

Parent and child psychiatric diagnoses were recorded alongside any suicidal behaviours. Religiosity was also assessed in terms of importance and attendance.

Subjects were two key questions:

  1. How often, if at all, do you attend church, synagogue, or other religious or spiritual services?'
  2. How important to you is religion or spirituality?

Respondents were invited to reply using a multiple choice sliding scale of answers.

The study also examined the relationship between parental religiosity by sex of the parent, as well as the sex of the offspring.

They were also surveyed to see if attendance at religious services differed by offspring or parent sex. However, no significant correlations were found.

The full study can be accessed at JAMA Psychiatry.