Religious attendance as reproductive support

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109 Scopus citations


We argue that a central function of religious attendance in the contemporary United States is to support a high-fertility, monogamous mating strategy. Although religious attendance is correlated with many demographic, personality, moral, and behavioral variables, we propose that sexual and family variables are at the core of many of these relationships. Numerous researchers have assumed that religious socialization causes people to feel moral reactions and engage in behaviors promoted by religious groups. On our view, mating preferences are centrally involved in individual differences in attraction to religious groups. In a sample of 21,131 individuals who participated in the US General Social Survey, sexual behaviors were the relatively strongest predictors of religious attendance, even after controlling for age and gender. Effects of age and gender on religious attendance were weaker and substantially reduced when controlling for sexual and family patterns. A sample of 902 college students provided more detailed information on religious, moral, and sexual variables. Results suggest that (1) moral views about sexual behavior are more strongly linked to religious attendance than other moral issues, and (2) mating strategy is more powerful than standard personality variables in predicting religious attendance. These findings suggest that reproductive strategies are at the heart of variations in religious attendance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-334
Number of pages8
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Religiosity
  • Religious attendance
  • Reproductive strategies
  • Sociosexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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