Religiousness of young and emerging adults

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Factors related to and influencing the religiousness of young and emerging adults include religious participation, peer influence, parental influence, and risky behaviors such as gambling, sexual behavior, and delinquency.

Religious participation[edit]

Young adulthood is a time when emerging adults question their religious beliefs and need for religious involvement. During early adulthood, people practice religion less than they did during adolescence with approximately half as frequent attendance of religious events and services. This drop in religious practice is caused by changes in young adults’ primary location of residence, decreasing interest in religion, increased religious doubts, and greater involvement in non-religious activities. Consequently, young adults adjust their beliefs and on average become more skeptical of formal or institutional religion than adults or adolescents. Changes in religious beliefs and participation are also influenced by young adults’ self perceptions and by how religion relates to their various life goals of success, growth, and achievement. As young adults grow older, their changed religious behaviors and skeptical beliefs revert toward more constant religious involvement and a more stable faith. Increasingly positive religious attitudes and more frequent religious behavior occur in adults who are thirty or more years old than in young adults in their twenties. This happens when they settle down and begin to live more stable lives, such as when they get married, graduate from college, find a stable full-time job, and start having children.[1]

Overall, the impact of religious participation on young adults is positive. Young and emerging adults who participate in religious activities and hold religious beliefs are more likely to have a healthier and more prosperous life. They are more likely to have positive relationships with their parents, experience less psychological distress, have fewer physical health problems, and experience greater life satisfaction. In addition, they are more likely to exhibit altruistic behaviors such as volunteering at nursing homes and advocating humanitarian efforts.[2] There is also a positive correlation between regular religious practices and identity achievement during the young adult years. Higher self-perceptions of value and competency were positively correlated with the level of religious involvement, and in contrast, those who were less involved in religion reported lower self-esteem and competence. In a like manner, people with more regular religious participation reported that good morality and conservative values were more important than those who participated less in religious activities.[3]

There are also significant gender differences that exist among young adults who participate in religious activities. Women tend to benefit more from religious practice than men, and religiosity and self-worth are more positively correlated for women than men during the young adult years. In addition, women’s identity achievement was more positively correlated with religious practice than men's identity achievement. This is because men tend to construct their identity from other achievement than from religious involvement and connection to a faith community. Adolescent men report lower levels of religious participation or association with a particular faith than adolescent women. Women also report giving religion greater importance and benefiting more from religious practices by than men do.[4]

Influence of peers[edit]

Although peer groups have been found to play a large role in influencing young adults, the full effect that they have on the young person’s religiousness is still unknown. Most studies report that peer influence has a very weak effect on the young person’s religiousness. Parents have been found to have a greater influence on the religiousness of the emerging adult than the peer group. However, peer groups frequently affect areas aside from religion. Peers might have an influence on whether or not a young adult attends youth group services or college groups because of the social aspect and the enjoyment of participation, which is largely influenced by their friends in attendance. Peer influence also affects dating relationships especially in religions that have specific guidelines for interfaith relationships such as the Christian faith. Decisions to join or leave a denomination for Baptists are greatly influenced by the number and quality of friendships that emerging adults have within that denomination.[5]

Parental influence[edit]

Parental influence is arguably the most influential external factor on the religiousness of young and emerging adults, and parents have the ability to shape young people’s views positively or negatively towards religion.[6]

Parental religiousness[edit]

The religion and religious participation of the parent plays a significant role in the young person’s religious practices. For Jewish emerging adults, the religious participation of their parents significantly impacted their religious beliefs and practices. This has been shown to extend into adulthood because parents’ church attendance has been said to be the best predictor of college teachers’ religiousness. Children that have been raised in a family that practices a specific denomination typically stick with that denomination from childhood through young adulthood. There tends to be stronger agreement between parents and their children on religious issues than other matters such as self-rated happiness. This agreement does not just occur between parents and their young adult children, but it also occurs for parents and their adult children, meaning that religious beliefs and practices seem to be passed down through the generations. Parents have been identified as the strongest influence on desire for faith and on religious belief, not only in the United States but in other nations as well, such as Australia. There has been speculation on whether or not there is a stronger influence from the mother or the father on religiousness. Of the studies that have been done, findings tend to lean slightly towards the mothers’ role in religious socialization; however both are very influential and important in religious socialization. In addition, the more active the parents are in their religion the more likely their religious ideals and practices will be transferred down through the generations. The relationship that the emerging adult had with their parent when they were a child is also likely to influence their religiousness. If the young adult had a positive, close relationship with their parents, they are more likely to stay within the religious tradition that their parents practice.[7]

Parental divorce[edit]

The following pertains predominately to young people who associate with the Christians faith. Religion and spirituality have a significant effect on young adults’ interpretations of and responses to their parents’ divorce when it occurs during their mid-to-late adolescence. Spiritual experiences these young adults have are tied to their adjustment in early adulthood. When young people viewed their parents' divorce as a sacred loss and experienced spiritual struggles, they were more likely to report psychological distress. Young people who used adaptive spiritual coping strategies were also more likely to report psychological distress. Adaptive spiritual coping strategies did correlate to greater perceived growth in the individual, and the coping strategies along with viewing the divorce as a sacred loss led to greater perceived spiritual growth in the individual. The young people who experience spiritual growth as a result of viewing divorce as a sacred loss and applying adaptive coping strategies say that they develop a greater connection with god and grow deeper spiritually.[8]

Religious involvement is positively correlated with marital happiness and negatively associated with marital conflict. High parental religiousness negatively correlated with divorce, this alludes to the fact that religion might be more of a causal variable than a predictor variable. In addition, children from families that have not experienced divorce are more likely to be religious, maintain religious practices, and report a deeper relationship with God.[9]

Transitioning to adulthood[edit]

Religion is thought by many to play a role in the transition to adulthood, however there has been little research done to find if that is the case. However, it has been found that as Catholic emerging adults grow up, they are more likely to maintain their beliefs and practices if they attend a Catholic university for college. Though they might not agree with the entire doctrine as they transition, they still uphold many of the traditions and beliefs they had as a child. Mormon emerging adults maintain their beliefs and practices more often when they attend a Mormon university for college. In contrast with the Catholics, Mormons develop a stronger adherence to the doctrine practiced by the Mormon tradition and are more likely than other religions to uphold traditional practices, such as early marriage. The majority of emerging Mormon adults also still believe that the home (family) is the most important thing in life. They believe individual wants and needs should be put on hold for the wants and needs of the family, which is something that is not practiced by many emerging adults outside of the Mormon faith today.[10]

Risky behaviors[edit]

Risky behavior is something that has long been associated with young and emerging adults. Sex, gambling, and delinquency are three areas in which religion has been studied with to see if there are any connections between religion, emerging adulthood, and risky behavior.

Gambling[edit]

Gambling is becoming increasingly popular and poses a significant problem to the current generation of emerging adults. The Internet has been a primary contributor to this problem, and the most popular forms of gambling for emerging adults are: Internet gambling, sporting event gambling, and lottery tickets. With the online gambling opportunities that are becoming increasingly available, young people have easier access to gambling and a greater likelihood to developing a gambling addiction.[11][12] Internet gambling is the fastest growing area on the Internet and is projected to exceed the profits of all of illicit Internet industries. Gambling on sporting events has also become a potential problem for emerging adults. It is easy to set up a bracket for an upcoming tournament and put some money in a pool with friends for those under age or online for those of age. Young people are beginning to bet at earlier ages on sporting events because betting is something which is simple to do under the table. Lottery tickets are also popular among emerging adults, especially those who are poor or just out of college. Of all the people that play the lottery, two-thirds live below the poverty line, which means that they make less than 10,000 dollars a year.[13]

 One study found that males and those in their mid-to-late-twenties are at the greatest risk for developing a gambling addiction and having more gambling problems.  Identifying as Catholic or “other religious affiliation” appears to put emerging adults at greater risk of developing a gambling problem as well, while identifying as having “no religious affiliation” appeared to have no increased risk.  More frequent religious attendance is associated with about a 40% decrease in the expected number of gambling problems in Catholics.[14]

Sexual behavior[edit]

Abstinence is the foregoing of sex until marriage. The abstinence pledge is a pledge that goes along with the abstinence-only sex education that is religiously based but taught in secular settings. Research regarding adolescents that take “the pledge” has found “the pledge” to significantly prolong the age of first sexual experience for non-black and younger adolescents and for those young people with a large, strong support group. The data suggests that about one in five young adults have taken an abstinence pledge either in written form or by public announcement. Those who indicate themselves as being more religious, attending services at least once a month, or identifying religion as being “fairly important” or “very important” in their lives are more likely than their counterparts to pledge. Twenty-seven percent of the young adults who married at an early age and took the pledge abstain from sex until marriage, and 41% only have pre-marital sex with their future spouse. Only about 8% of other young adults abstain from sex until marriage, and while 42% of pledge takers have sex with someone they do not marry, 72% of others do. These numbers indicate that pledgers are less sexually active than their non-pledging counterparts. It has been concluded by Uecker that many young adults abstain from sex until marriage because they adopt the strict religious teaching from their religion or from a pledging organization (which is most likely religiously based). The differences between these two groups are significant.[15]

Religiosity has been found to have a significant effect on young peoples' decision on whether or not to postpone sex until marriage. When religious attendance is increased, the likelihood that the adolescent will abstain from sex increases, and the same is true for self-reports of importance of religion. Young adults who attend religious services on a weekly basis or more are eight times less likely to engage in pre-marital sex than those who never attend. Only about 8% of semi-regular attendees abstain from pre-marital sex, where as 21% of regular attendees abstain until marriage. Young adults that attend religious services regularly are less likely to have sex with anyone other than their future spouse.[16]

Of the different religious affiliations, Black Protestants are the least likely to remain abstinent until marriage. There is no difference between black Protestants and non-religious groups when it comes to abstinence. Mormons are eight times less likely to engage in pre-marital sex than mainline Protestants with someone other than their future spouse.[17]

Delinquency[edit]

Overall, religion has a positive influence on lowering delinquency in young people in conjunction with the home environment that the young person was raised in. Parenting style and religious involvement interact together. While supportive family practices have been shown to have a slight effect on delinquency trajectories but when religion is added to the mix the effect is amplified. Because the effect is amplified, it is reasoned that the religiousness of the home has an effect on the influence of parental affection of delinquency trajectories. Young people raised in religious families have a much lower chance of participating in delinquent behaviors. Religion has also been shown to act as a buffer for young people against the stress associated with being raised in a single-parent home. Religious participation has been shown to be a stronger deterrent for those in their late adolescent years from delinquent behavior for young people raised by single-parents than for those raised in two-parent homes. Young adults raised in single-parent homes are likely to turn to religious institutions to get the support and social control that isn’t being supplied at home. The young people from single-parent homes may receive support from their friends in their religious community that aids in deterring them from participating in delinquent activities. Young people that follow the low level trajectory, meaning that they are predicted to have lower levels of delinquency are more likely to attend religious services than the young adults that follow the higher delinquent behavior trajectory.[18]

References[edit]

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  • Etengoff, C. & Daiute, C., (2013). Sunni-Muslim American Religious Development during Emerging Adulthood, Journal of Adolescent Research, 28(6), 690-714.
  • Etengoff, C., (2011). An Exploration of religious gender differences amongst Jewish-American emerging adults of different socio-religious subgroups, Archive for the Psychology of Religion, 33, 371-391.
  • ^ Barry, C., & Nelson, L. J. (2008). The role of religious beliefs and practices on emerging adults' perceived competencies, perceived importance ratings, and global self-worth. International Journal Of Behavioral Development, 32(6), 509-521. doi:10.1177/0165025408095555
  • ^ Smith, C., Snell, P., (2009). Souls in transition. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • ^ Barry, C., & Nelson, L. J. (2008). The role of religious beliefs and practices on emerging adults' perceived competencies, perceived importance ratings, and global self-worth. International Journal Of Behavioral Development, 32(6), 509-521. doi:10.1177/0165025408095555
  • ^ Barry, C., & Nelson, L. J. (2008). The role of religious beliefs and practices on emerging adults' perceived competencies, perceived importance ratings, and global self-worth. International Journal Of Behavioral Development, 32(6), 509-521. doi:10.1177/0165025408095555
  • ^ Spilka, B. (2003). The psychology of religion, an empirical approach. (3 ed., pp. 106-147). New York, Ny: Guilford Pubn.
  • ^ Spilka, B. (2003). The psychology of religion, an empirical approach. (3 ed., pp. 106-147). New York, Ny: Guilford Pubn.
  • ^ Spilka, B. (2003). The psychology of religion, an empirical approach. (3 ed., pp. 106-147). New York, Ny: Guilford Pubn.
  • ^ Warner, H. L., Mahoney, A., & Krumrei, E. J. (2009). When parents break sacred vows: The role of spiritual appraisals, coping, and struggles in young adults’ adjustment to parental divorce. Psychology Of Religion And Spirituality, 1(4), 233-248. doi:10.1037/a0016787
  • ^ Petts, R. J. (2009). Trajectories of religious participation from adolescence to young adulthood. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion, 48(3), 552-571. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2009.01465.x
  • ^ Barry, C., & Nelson, L. J. (2005). The Role of Religion in the Transition to Adulthood for Young Emerging Adults. Journal Of Youth And Adolescence, 34(3), 245-255. doi:10.1007/s10964-005-4308-1
  • ^ Eitle, D. (2011). Religion and gambling among young adults in the United States: Moral communities and the deterrence hypothesis. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion, 50(1), 61-81. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01552.x
  • ^ Clinton, T., Hart, A., & Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way: Personal and emotional issues, addictions, grief, and trauma. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
  • ^ Eitle, D. (2011). Religion and gambling among young adults in the United States: Moral communities and the deterrence hypothesis. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion, 50(1), 61-81. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01552.x
  • ^ Eitle, D. (2011). Religion and gambling among young adults in the United States: Moral communities and the deterrence hypothesis. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion, 50(1), 61-81. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01552.x
  • ^ Uecker, J. E. (2008). Religion, pledging, and the premarital sexual behavior of married young adults. Journal Of Marriage And Family, 70(3), 728-744. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00517.x
  • ^ Uecker, J. E. (2008). Religion, pledging, and the premarital sexual behavior of married young adults. Journal Of Marriage And Family, 70(3), 728-744. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00517.x
  • ^ Uecker, J. E. (2008). Religion, pledging, and the premarital sexual behavior of married young adults. Journal Of Marriage And Family, 70(3), 728-744. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00517.x
  • ^ Petts, R. J. (2009). Family and religious characteristics' influence on delinquency trajectories from adolescence to young adulthood. American Sociological Review, 74(3), 465-483. doi:10.1177/000312240907400307