Saturday, October 24, 2015

More on Parental Effects on Youth Religiosity

About a year ago, Richard Petts used the National Survey of Youth and Religion to study the effects of family structure on youth religiosity. Along the way, he found some interesting things about things that parents do that help their youth retain their religion. He published this in the journal Sociology of Religion but my page numbers will refer to the online publication.

In his first hypothesis test (pp. 13-14), he found that the most significant positive impact on the religiosity of youth was parental religiosity (1.10). The second most significant positive impact was if their parent was a Mormon (0.64). The third most positive impact was if their parent was a conservative Protestant (0.61). The most negative impacts were if the parents were cohabiting, that is living together without being married (-0.39), if the parent was single without ever being married (-0.35), or if the parents owned their own home (-0.34).

In his third hypothesis test (pp. 13-14), Petts found that besides parental religiosity, the most important things were "family religious practices" (0.84) which meant: "Youth are considered to engage in religious practices with their family if they had prayed together with their family in the past year and talked with their family about religious things at least once a week" (pp. 8-9). In a Latter-day Saint context that would include family prayer and family home evening.

Petts also tested for religious salience, that is, how important religion is for the youth (pp. 16-17). The most important positive factors were: Parental religiosity (0.61), if the parent is a conservative Protestant ( 0.48), and if the parent is a Mormon (0.46). The three most detrimental things were having a single parent who had never married (-0.24), living in a step family (-0.20), and having a child who is a different race from their parent (-0.17).

When Petts tested for things that make youth feel close to God, the most important thing was family religious practices (0.36) while the most detrimental thing was divorce (-0.28).

Here are some of Petts's conclusions:
Although there were a few exceptions, family structure generally did not have a direct influence on youth religious outcomes. (p. 19)
Parental religiosity was a strong predictor of youth religiosity; youth were less likely to be religious when raised by parents with low levels of religiosity and vice versa. (p. 19)
Overall, religious transmission in nontraditional families appears to be less effective for religious participation and religious salience among youth, and these differences are most pronounced at higher levels of parental religiosity. That is, youth raised in nontraditional families with highly religious parents have lower levels of religious participation and religious salience than those raised by highly religious married parents. (p. 22)
Consistency in religious affiliation among family members and engaging in religious behavior as a family are important in predicting youth religiosity. (p. 23)
So, the take away for parents who want to keep their children in the faith:
  1. Set a positive example by participating yourself.

  2. Marry your spouse.

  3. Stay married.

  4. Hold family prayer.

  5. Hold family home evening.
I'm sure I must have heard this somewhere before.