Understanding delinquency among the spiritual but not religious

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This study investigates the association between “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) identity and delinquency using a representative sample aged 16–20 years (N = 2,530) in the United States. The analyses extend prior research by examining SBNR effects across a broad range of delinquent behaviors (theft, fighting, marijuana use, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes) and by testing several theoretically salient mechanisms (religious attendance, peers, parental expectations, images of God, morality, and strain), which may account for the association between SBNR identity and delinquency. I estimate SBNR effects on delinquency using logistic and binomial regression and test mechanisms using the Karlson–Holm–Breen method. SBNR identity is positively associated with delinquency, with the strongest effects on substance use but a nonsignificant effect on theft. The hypothesized mechanisms explain between 54% and 69% of the association between SBNR identity and overall delinquency, depending on the “degree” of SBNR identity reported.

In Sociology of Religion