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Church sets young people right

17 January 2014

NATIONAL CHURCHES TRUST

Calming: the Beauchamp Chapel at St Mary's, Warwick, has received £40,000 for urgent repairs, part of a £645,000 "rescue package" for places of worship, granted by the National Churches Trust this week

Calming: the Beauchamp Chapel at St Mary's, Warwick, has received £40,000 for urgent repairs, part of a £645,000 "rescue package" for places of wors...

YOUNG people who regularly visit a place of worship are less likely to be involved in petty crimes such as shoplifting, vandalism, and illegal music-downloading, and they are also unlikely to use drugs, a study led by Mark Littler, a Ph.D. student at the University of Manchester, suggests.

"This research implies that the act of visiting a place of worship may trigger a significant reduction in the likelihood of involvement in certain types of criminal and delinquent behaviour," he said.

In the study, Mr Littler questioned 1214 adults aged between 18 and 34, last July. "In line with existing American research, my results suggest that it is the act of mixing with fellow believers that is important, regardless of whether this is via formal worship, involvement in faith-based social activities, or simply through spending time with family and friends who share your faith. The important thing is exposure to people who encourage pro-social behaviours, and can provide sanctions for their breach."

Full details of his work, which was funded by the Bill Hill Charitable Trust, which works for the relief of poverty and the promotion of the Christian religion, will be published later this year.

The survey gathered information on littering, skipping school or work, using illegal drugs, fare-dodging, shoplifting, music piracy, property damage, and violence against the person. More serious crimes were too rare to be able to show a significant pattern.

"These results suggest a more positive picture of Britain's religious life than the doom and gloom you might read about it in the newspapers," Mr Littler said. "But they are not necessarily a blow to the proponents of atheism: religious practice is just one way of gaining exposure to the pro-social behavioural norms that are at the heart of this relationship; other, more secular activities may equally serve a similar role."

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