Tags: families | faith | book | Bengtson

Book: Parents Have Greater Religious Influence Than They Think

Monday, 27 Jan 2014 08:21 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Parents who enjoy a warm and nurturing relationship with their children are well positioned to pass their faith on to the next generation, according to a new book, "Families and Faith."

Too many parents resign themselves to holding no sway against "a coarse, secular popular culture." But such resignation "become a self-fulfilling prophecy," according to lead author Vern Bengtson, Norella Putney and Susan Harris.

The three, all academics at the University of Southern California, examined data on 350 families, comprising 2,400 individuals, over four decades to understand how faith is transmitted from elders to the young, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Faith continuity is significantly connected to the overall parent-child relationship, the authors say.

Where there is "warm" rapport it is more likely children will identify with the religion of their parents when they themselves become adults. Among Evangelicals, emotionally close father-son relationships further contributed to children embracing the faith of the father.

While those in the millennial generation tend to be close to its parents their lack of religious affiliation is probably tied to lack of interest in religion displayed by the parents themselves, the authors say.

Parents who are excessively zealous— new converts to a faith, for instance– were more likely to have offspring who were secular.

Bengtson, Putney, and Harris also found that the religiosity of grandparents had an influence over their grandchildren about 43 percent of the time.

The number of subjects in the "Families and Faith" survey may be too small for countrywide generalizations, though it offers insights into the "circuitry of religious transmission," according to the Journal.

All in all, the lead author, Bengtson writes, children are more likely than not to follow the lead of their parents— whether it is staying religious or staying nonreligious.

In modern America, then, religion is not purely a matter of individual choice. Family, faith, and continuity are deeply entwined, the Journal said.

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