Differing Religious Motivations are associated with Adolescent Health Behavior through Self-regulation

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Virginia Tech

Previous literature has widely demonstrated the physical and mental benefits of religiousness. However, how religiousness benefits health is not as well known. It has been proposed that self-regulation is the linking mechanism and the current study sought to confirm this theory. Furthermore, religious motivation has been found to have differential effects on a variety of outcomes. The current study hypothesized that higher identification as religious motivation is linked to higher health-promoting behavior and lower health-risk behavior through higher self-regulation, which was composed of behavioral, emotional, and cognitive regulation. It was also hypothesized that higher introjection as religious motivation is linked to lower health-promoting behavior and higher health-risk behavior through lower self-regulation. The current sample included 220 adolescents (mean age = 15 years, 55% male) and their primary caregivers. This study's findings clarified that the motivation to be religious is critical when considering health benefits as it predicts health outcomes distinctly from only religiousness in general and self-regulation mediates this relation. Specifically, higher identification was related to higher self-regulation and subsequently lower health-risk behavior, whereas introjection was linked to lower self-regulation and subsequently higher health-risk behavior. However, when health-promoting behaviors, such as exercise or brushing teeth, were considered, the relation did not exist. In addition, non-significant interaction effects between identification and introjection indicated that these effects are only additive in nature. The current findings are particularly important by providing information about protective factors for risk taking behavior during adolescence, a developmental period associated with greater risk taking behavior.

Health Behavior, Self-regulation, Motivation, Religiousness