Maternal Religiosity and Adolescent Mental Health: a UK Prospective Cohort Study

Isaac Halstead*, Jon E Heron, Connie Svob, Carol J Joinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Previous research has examined associations between parental religiosity and offspring mental health, but findings are inconsistent, and few studies have focused on late adolescence when mental health problems are more common. This study examines the prospective relationship between maternal religiosity and offspring mental health in late adolescence.

We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to examine the prospective association between latent classes of maternal religiosity (Highly Religious, Moderately Religious, Agnostic, Atheist) and self-reported mental health problems including common mental disorders, ICD 10 depression, depressive symptoms, generalised anxiety symptoms, self-harm acts, self-harm thoughts, and disordered eating outcomes at age 17-18 years (n = 7714). We used multivariable logistic regression analysis adjusted for maternal mental health, maternal adverse childhood experiences, and socioeconomic variables.

Compared with adolescent offspring of parents in the Agnostic class, offspring of the Atheist, Moderately Religious, and Highly Religious classes had increased odds of depressive symptoms ((1.31[1.03,1.67]), (1.26 [0.97,1.65]), and (1.30 [0.99,1.70]), respectively) and offspring of the Highly Religious had increased odds of self-harm thoughts (1.43[1.04,1.97]) and acts (1.31[0.98,1.74]), however some of these results crossed the null. There was no evidence of associations with the disordered eating outcomes or generalised anxiety disorder symptoms.

We found evidence that adolescents whose mothers are Atheist, Moderately Religious, and Highly Religious are more likely to have depressive symptoms than those whose mothers are Agnostic. There was also evidence for an increased likelihood of self-harm (thoughts and acts) amongst adolescents of Highly Religious parents. Further research is needed to examine possible mechanisms that could explain these observed associations as well as a repetition of our analyses in a non-UK sample.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date26 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2024

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