Longitudinal data on parental religious behaviour and beliefs from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

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There is evidence that, in general, the West is becoming more secular. Religious belief has been shown in some studies to positively impact on outcomes such as coping with serious illness and other life events and general well-being. In this paper, we describe the data collected from parents enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) on their religious behaviour and beliefs on three occasions. These data are available for researchers to use in association with other longitudinally collected data on social, biological, genetic and epigenetic features of this culturally largely protestant Christian population. Data were collected antenatally and then subsequently at 5 and 9 years post-delivery from self-completion questionnaires completed by each parent independently. Strong sex differences (all P<0.001) were noted regarding religious beliefs and behaviour: for example, 49.9% of women stated that they believed in God or some divine being compared with 37% of men. Almost twice as many men (28.6%) than women (14.9%) declared they were atheists. Men were less likely to have stated that they had been helped by a divine presence; to appeal to God if they were in trouble, to attend religious services or obtain help from members of religious groups. Among the 6256 women and 2355 men who answered the questions at all three time points, there was evidence of a slight reduction in professed belief and a slight increase in the proportion stating that they were atheists. Information is available from this resource, which is rich in data on the environment, traumatic incidents, health and genetic background. It can be used for research into various aspects of the antecedents and consequences of religious belief and behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
JournalWellcome Open Research
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2019

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