How Parents Make Their Children Religious (or Not)

How Parents Make Their Children Religious (or Not)

If transmitting the faith is part of the vocation of parents, this also means that God Himself is at work in and through what the parents do.  It may not seem like the children are receptive and they may well rebel against what their parents have taught them, but, in the long run, what God does by means of parents will have its effect.

The most important factor in whether or not children hold on to their faith and go to church when they are older is their parents.  That does not always hold true, of course, but in general, if the parents are religious, their children eventually will be also.  And vice, versa.  Again, with exceptions, if the parents are not religious and do not go to church much, neither will their children.

The researchers have written about their findings in Christianity Today in an article entitled Parents Set the Pace for Their Adult Children’s Religious Life with the deck “‘Handing Down the Faith’ shows a vast majority of Americans don’t choose their religious beliefs. They inherit them.”  Here is an excerpt:

Parents define for their children the role that religious faith and practice ought to play in life, whether important or not, which most children roughly adopt. Parents set a “glass ceiling” of religious commitment above which their children rarely rise. Parental religious investment and involvement is in almost all cases the necessary and even sometimes sufficient condition for children’s religious investment and involvement.

This parental primacy in religious transmission is significant because, even though most parents do realize it when they think about it, their crucial role often runs in the background of their busy lives; it is not a conscious, daily, strategic matter. Furthermore, many children do not recognize the power that their parents have in shaping their religious lives but instead view themselves as autonomous information processors making independent, self-directing decisions. Widespread cultural scripts also consistently say that the influence of parents over their children recedes starting with the onset of puberty, while the influence of peers, music, and social media takes over.

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