Religious development from adolescence to early adulthood: the effects of parental religiousness and relationship quality

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University of Delaware
This study used data from Waves I, III, and IV of the National Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to test whether parental religiousness and parental relationship quality (RQ) could predict the religiousness of their child during adolescence, emerging adulthood, and early adulthood. Parental data were obtained from either the participant's mother or father during Wave I only. Wave I adolescent participants were subsequently re-interviewed six years later (Wave III) and thirteen years later (Wave IV). This study also tested whether having a religious or spiritual experience that was life changing could predict religiousness in emerging adulthood and early adulthood. Finally, this study also tested whether previous levels of religiousness were predictive of religiousness in the future. The results demonstrate that parental religiousness and RQ have both a concurrent and longitudinal effect on children's religiousness. Mother's and father's religiousness significantly predicted their child's religiousness in adolescence and early adulthood. Neither parent's religiousness predicted their child's religiousness in emerging adulthood. Additionally, father RQ predicted their child's religiousness in adolescence and early adulthood but not in emerging adulthood. Mother RQ predicted their child's religiousness in adolescence only. Having a life changing religious or spiritual experience predicted religiousness in emerging adulthood but not in early adulthood. Religiousness in adolescence predicted religiousness in early adulthood but not in emerging adulthood. Religiousness in emerging adulthood predicted religiousness in early adulthood, but not consistently. These findings suggest that parents strongly influence their child's religious trajectories from adolescence into early adulthood. Although results here demonstrate a loss in the parental effect on religiousness in emerging adulthood, religiousness in early adulthood is once again predicted by and correlated with religiousness in adolescence and parental religiousness. The developmental patterns of religiousness from adolescence to early adulthood seen here are discussed in light of normative identity explorations as well as from Fowler's (1981) Faith Development Theory framework. Finally, the case for religious institutions serving as potential outlets to promote positive youth development (PYD) is presented.