Today, a new study from the Institute of Family Studies was released by two scholars, Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfing. Titled, Better Together: Religious Attendance, Gender, and Relationship Quality, the authors cite data concluding that religious participation plays a dramatic role in promoting healthy relationships.
Among the findings, they conclude that:
- The “happiest” relationships are those in which both the man and woman or just the man attends religious services regularly and the least happy are those in which just the woman attends regularly
- When a man attends church regularly, with or without his female partner, his relationship benefits.
- 78% of men and women in couples who attend together regularly, or where the only the man attends regularly, report that they are “very happy” or “extremely happy.”
- 67% of men and women in relationships where neither attend are happy.
- 59% of those where only she attends regularly report they are very happy.
- Couples who pray together frequently are happier, on average, than those who do not.
- Men and women who report praying together frequently (once a week or more) are 17 percentage points more likely to indicate they are very happy together.
- Shared prayer is a stronger predictor of relationship quality than other religious factors, race, education, age, sex, or region.
This research brief offers two conclusions: for American couples, shared religious attendance and a man’s solo attendance are both associated with reporting significantly higher relationship quality; in contrast, men and women are much less likely to be happy in their relationships when the woman attends alone. Our findings suggest that men’s religious attendance is particularly beneficial to their relationships, perhaps because churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are some of the few institutions in American life that devote sustained attention to encouraging men to invest in their families. Joint attendance seems to connect men and women to networks of friends who are living family-centered lives, and is also associated with a spiritually intimate behavior: praying together. Indeed, shared prayer is one of the best predictors of higher relationship quality in our models. If our results regarding relationship quality are any indication, it may well be that the couple that prays together stays together, confirmation of a long-held belief of many religious Americans.
Read the whole thing. While religion is often derided as an antiquated social good of bygone eras, Wilcox and Wolfing’s research confirms that religion plays an enormous role in positively shaping the institutions of civil society.