What keeps teens in the faith (new study)

7 Nov

From Huffington Post:

The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: parents.

Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.

Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s.

In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The connection is “nearly deterministic,” said University of Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the study.

Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.

“No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,” Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. “Parents just dominate.”

Parent power

Several studies have shown that the religious behaviors and attitudes of parents are related to those of their children.

In research using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, sociologists Christopher Bader and Scott Desmond found that children of parents who believe that religion is very important and display their commitment by attending services are most likely to transmit religiosity to their children.

This is the fourth wave of the NSYR, a comprehensive national study first conducted in 2002-2003 among teens ages 13 to 17 and their parents. These early findings add powerful evidence of the importance of mothers and fathers as the study traces the path of young respondents, who are now ages 24 to 29.

One of the strongest factors associated with older teens keeping their faith as young adults was having parents who talked about religion and spirituality at home, Smith said.

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