H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D.,
Dept. of Anthropology/Sociology,
Hobart & William Smith Colleges
A long tradition of theory and empirical research has linked religiosity to personal well-being in youth and young adulthood. Some explanations rely on Durkheimian arguments about the benefits of a normative community in providing identity and social support, where happiness and the avoidance of despair depend upon integration in the bonds of a moral group. Other explanations point to the ascetic lifestyle proscriptions of various religious traditions as key influences. This study presents an update on analyses from an ongoing longitudinal and cross-sectional research project assessing religiosity and well-being within a developmental framework. The data are drawn from surveys of selected cohorts of college graduates from an undergraduate institution where almost all students are traditional age (17-23) when they attend the institution. The entire alumni/alumnae classes of '79, '82, '85, were first surveyed after graduation in 1987-88 (N=860; 76% response). The classes of '79, '82, and '85 were next surveyed along with the class of '89 in 1991-92 (N=1,151; 70% response). The third and most recent wave of the survey conducted in 1996-97 adds the class of '93 to the previously selected cohorts (N=1,395; 70% response). Well-being is evaluated in terms of alcohol consumption level, socially integrated roles and values, and problems of alcohol abuse. Religious commitment, family development, personal success pursuits, and alcohol consumption all demonstrate significant shifts across the young adulthood life span represented by these post-collegians. Religiosity has a significant impact on well-being, most notably in terms of moderating individual success orientations and alcohol abuse, when controlling for familial circumstance, religious tradition and age.