13 June 2006

Religious Transmission

So utlawgirl got me researching a bit this morning (I'm like dry tinder around a match in that regard) while I waited for an hour for a data report that should take five minutes (dammit!).

The topic is transmission of religion from parents to children. It's of course obvious and unsurprising that the vast majority of religious people share their religion with thier parents, rather than having chosen a religion after some sort of spiritual search or a comparative evaluation. Here are a couple bits of info on the subject (I have to work sometime, after all).

Regarding the second excerpt, elswhere in the paper a study is referenced that found parental religiosity was positively associated with "authoritative" (damanding and responsive) parenting and negatively with "authoritarian" (demanding and unresponsive) parenting.

This got me thinking about myself (that didn't take long!). I love my parents very much, but I'd venture that they likely fall into the authoritarian camp. I worry about this in my own parenting--that I'll enforce the rules but neglect the close relationship I'd like to have. This probably leads to leniency in some areas, of which religion one. I often wonder if I'm doing enough to explain my views to my son. After all, I'm in a 10% minority of the U.S. population, and of those that share my religious views, the vast majority share little else philosophically, tending to be leftists and relativists. Should I be doing more? In a very real sense, it almost seems silly to try to impart what I don't believe. The answer is probably to demonstrate and nurture an inquisitive and rational mind, open to many possiblilities. Still, religion is an ever-present reality he will encounter throughout his life, which seems to demand some some sort of action on my part. Thus far, I'm pretty much limited myself to short, honest answers when I'm asked what I think about something, and, when I hear something asserted, responding that some people believe that, others believe this way, still others think this. I never want this or any subject to be something about which he feels he can't talk to me. So often deeply-held parental beliefs are untouchable, unquestionable axioms for children, and that's the last thing I want to perpetuate.

A 2004 study of religion in Britain reports these statistics on religious transmission:

An HHS paper on measurement of family religiosity has this to say about transmission:

Transmission of Religiosity. The transmission of religiosity itself within families has been the focus of research on socialization, and is of interest as a special case of family communication. Many factors influence the transmission of religious beliefs and practices to children and adolescents, with parents and family generally being viewed as the primary agent of religious socialization (King, Furrow, & Roth, 2002). Some researchers have found that parents transmit their religious beliefs, affiliation, and activities to their children, and this is more likely to happen when parent-child relationships are warm and parental communication about religion is clear (Bao et al, 1999; Benson et al, 1989). Myers (1996) found that three factors aid in the familial transfer of religiosity: parental religiosity, quality of the family relationship, and traditional family structure. Of these factors, parental religiosity was the biggest determinant of offspring's religiosity.

Other researchers have added insights into the process of religious transmission. For example, Regenerus, Smith, & Smith (2004) find that parental religiosity is more strongly related to adolescents' religious participation (a behavior over which parents can maintain a certain level of control) than it is to their sense of the importance of religion. Erickson (1992) found that parents' religious influence and activity had an indirect influence on adolescents' religious commitments by directing them to other social influencers (peers, school, faith community) that have increasing salience during adolescence. Similarly, Martin, White, and Perlman's (2003) analyses found that parents have an effect on adolescent religiosity through peer influence.

1 comment:

utlawgirl said...

Very interesting post! I'll have to re-read it sometime when I'm not speed reading for fear someone will catch me not working!

Oh, and your Spiderman comment was hilarious to me because we just went to my neighbor's son's Spiderman party where they had a Spiderman cake, and that was about it!