Religious harmony/disharmony and mental health in pre-adolescents and adolescents
The TRAILS study
Background. TRAILS is a prospective cohort study of Dutch youth, from pre-adolescence (10-12 year) to adolescence (18-21 year). This study examines whether religious differences between parents (harmony parents), between pre-adolescents and their mothers (harmony pre-adolescent/mother) or fathers (harmony pre-adolescent/father), and between pre-adolescents and school (harmony pre-adolescent/school), represent a risk factor for the mental health problems, measured by internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors in pre-adolescence and in adolescence.
Methods. Mental health problems in a sample of 2230 youngsters (49.2% boys) were assessed using self-report: in pre-adolescence with the Youth Self-Report (YSR) and in adolescence with the Adult Self Report (ASR). Repeated measure ANOVA analyses were performed with internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors as dependent variables, time (pre-adolescence, adolescence) as within factor, and the four harmony variables as independent factors.
Results. The variables harmony parents, harmony pre-adolescent/father, and harmony pre-adolescent/school were not associated with internalizing or externalizing problems, whereas the variable harmony pre-adolescent/mother was significantly associated with internalizing problems in pre-adolescence and adolescence (partial ŋ2=0.05). Pre-adolescents had more internalizing problems when there was religious dysbalance (=being different religious) rather than religious harmony and non-religious harmony between adolescents and their mothers. Further, there was a significant two-way interaction between harmony pre-adolescent/mother and time, indicating externalizing problem behavior in connection with harmony pre-adolescent/mother decreased with time, as the child developed from pre-adolescence to adolescence. Effects were similar for boys and girls.
Conclusions. The harmony pre-adolescent/mother variable was the only one that was weakly associated with internalizing problem behavior. This suggests that this variable is somewhat more sensitive than other harmony measures in connection with problem behavior.