Church members are a significant but under-researched source of informal support particularly among adolescents. Church-based support networks are a long-standing and significant feature of religious involvement for Black Americans that provides tangible and psychosocial resources helpful for navigating life challenges. However, questions concerning the role of church support for Black adolescents in the United States are under-researched, especially potential ethnic group differences.
This study examines church-based support among Black adolescents, focusing on ethnic variation in receiving and providing church support among African American and Black Caribbean adolescents (13–17 years). We use data from the National Survey of American Life-Adolescent (NSAL-A) Supplement study.
Both African American and Black Caribbean adolescents report receiving church support, with approximately half of both groups providing overall assistance to others on a frequent basis. There were no significant ethnic differences for receipt or provision of church support. In separate regression models for African American and Black Caribbean adolescents, significant differences emerged across age, family income, geographic region, frequency of service attendance and congregational activity. For Black Caribbeans, girls provide help during illness more frequently than boys. For both African American and Black Caribbean adolescents, religious engagement (i.e., frequency of service attendance and congregational activity) was associated with both receiving and providing church support.
Information about sociodemographic and religious differences in involvement with church support exchanges can be used to align Black adolescents’ participation in ways that are developmentally appropriate and consistent with their life experiences.