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Religious socialization : a test of the chanelling hypothesis of parental influence on adolescent faith maturity Martin, Todd Forrest

Abstract

Studies have consistently shown the family to be the most influential socializing agent in the life of the children, including the area of religious socialization. The pathways by which this occurs and the variables moderating the strength of the parental influence are still being explored but involves a variety of variables such as parenting style, parental religiosity, gender, age of the child, and the influence of peer networks. Recent research on faith transfer through the generations has shown the acquisition of religiosity has as much or more to do with what goes on in the family than what goes on in the religious institution. This study proposes to test the channeling hypothesis which looks at the indirect effect that parental religiosity has on offspring. By channeling or directing a child into secondary religious networks such as congregational influences, peer groups, education systems and potential mates, a parent indirectly affects the religiosity of a child. The use of a national survey of 11,000 adolescents and adults in six Protestant denominations produced a sub-sample of 2,365 youth that was analyzed to determine if there is support for the notion that parents do have a direct main effect on adolescent religiosity, if it is lasting, and how the intervention of congregational and peer influences impact the outcome variable, faith maturity. As expected, parental factors were significantly related to the outcome variable of faith maturity both before and after the variables of congregational and peer measure were introduced. It was found that peer influence has a small but significant mediating effect while congregational influence did not. Contrary to expectations, as the age group of the adolescent increased the relationship between peer measures and faith maturity scores did not become stronger nor did the relationship between parental scores and faith maturity become weaker. In fact, the research showed that while peer influence remained constant during the adolescent years, parental influence increased with age. Findings indicate the importance of all three socializing agents but particularly the strength of peer influence, the increasing influence of parents and the power of both parental and peer influences interacting together.

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