Sikh and Catholic mothers ‘most likely to attend religious services’

16 February 2010

Sikh and Roman Catholic women in the UK are more likely to attend a weekly religious service than women from other major faiths and churches, new research suggests.

An analysis of the religious affiliation and worship practices of 14,795 mothers of primary-aged children shows that 32 per cent of Sikh women and 31 per cent of Catholic women attend a service every week.

By contrast, only 13 per cent of Protestant mothers go to church weekly, and 61 per cent say they attend services rarely or never. Muslim women are even more likely to say they rarely or never attend services (65%). Islam, of course, traditionally encourages women not to attend the mosque, and many British mosques do not permit entry to women.

The study from the Institute of Education, University of London, also found that white mothers were by far the most likely to say that they had no religion (43%). Most white mothers with a belief described themselves as Protestants (35%) or Catholics (12%). The remaining 10 per cent were Christians who did not specify a denomination, or mothers who belonged to a smaller denomination.

Black African and black Caribbean mothers were the most likely to identify themselves as Christian. However, many of them did not specify a denomination (39%) or named one that was outside the major groupings (36%). There was also a substantial Muslim minority (26%) among black African mothers. Pakistani and Bangladeshi mothers were almost exclusively Muslim, whereas Indian mothers were more diverse, being mainly Hindu (41%), Sikh (35%) or Muslim (13%).

Many of the mothers who indicated that they had a religious attachment did not attend religious services. Overall, half of the mothers who said they had a faith attended services rarely or never.

Muslim fathers were substantially more likely than fathers from other religious groups to attend services weekly (57% compared to 20% of Catholic fathers).

The women who took part in the survey are all mothers of children being tracked by the UK-wide Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which is based at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Institute of Education. They were questioned about their religious affiliation when their children were aged 5. The analysis of mothers’ responses was carried out by Dr Alice Sullivan. Her findings appear in a book on the MCS’s first three surveys, which is published today (February 17) by The Policy Press. Children of the 21st century (volume 2): the first five years is available from the publisher’s website

The MCS was commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, whose funding has been supplemented by a consortium of Government departments.

Further information

David Budge
(off) 020 7911 5349
(mob) 07881 415362

Notes for editors

1. The first survey of the Millennium Cohort Study took place between June 2001 and January 2003. It gathered information from the parents of 18,818 babies born in the four UK countries. The second survey took place at age 3 and the third at age 5. Its field of inquiry covers such diverse topics as parenting; childcare; school choice; child behaviour and cognitive development; child and parental health; parents’ employment and education; income and poverty; and housing, neighbourhood and residential mobility. It is the first of the nationwide cohort studies to over-sample places with high densities of ethnic minorities and large numbers of disadvantaged families.

2. The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London, specialising in teaching, research and consultancy in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise judged almost two-thirds of the work submitted by the IOE as internationally significant, and 35 per cent as ‘world leading’.

3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

The contract for data collection in MCS is awarded under competitive tender to specialist agencies. For three out of the four surveys undertaken to date the data collection was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), who in turn sub-contracted the interviewing in Northern Ireland to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). The agency responsible for the second round of data collection was Gfk-NOP, who sub-contracted in Northern Ireland to Millward Brown.

Back to news listing

Media enquiries

Ryan Bradshaw
Senior Communications Officer

Phone: 020 7612 6516

Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL


Follow us