Religious/Secular Distance: How Far Apart Are Teenagers and Their Parents?

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Abstract

Prior research exploring differences in religiousness (and/or secularity) between parents and their teenage children suggests that there are not substantial differences, with differences increasing during emerging adulthood. However, previous efforts to examine differences in religiousness between parents and their teenage children have relied upon single-item measures, have used self-reported differences, or have only asked either the child or the parent but not both to evaluate religious distance. In this study we use a robust scale measure to calculate the religious distance between parents and children in an upper-middle class high school in New York state (students n = 196; parents/caretakers n = 328). We find that teenage children in our sample are, on average, about 12% less religious (or more secular) than their fathers and about 17% less religious (or more secular) than their mothers. Our study improves upon measures of religious distance between parents and teenage children and provides support for recent research suggesting that the transmission of religiousness from parents to children can function as a mechanism of secularization.

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