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Families and FaithHow Religion is Passed Down across Generations$
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Vern L. Bengtson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199948659

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199948659.001.0001

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Families of Faith

Families of Faith

Challenges to Continuity

(p.3) Chapter 1 Families of Faith
Families and Faith

Vern L. Bengtson

Norella M. Putney

Susan C. Harris

Oxford University Press

Three generations in a family have followed the same religious faith, but the youngest, a member of the Millennial generation, leaves. Why? This chapter describes an era of remarkable religious and cultural change in American life and its consequences for families and religion. Youths’ spiritual expressions reflect amazing diversity, including what have been called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, “worshiping at the church of benign whatever-ism,” and “generation ex-Christian.” This suggests a serious generation gap in religion between today’s youth and their elders. But is this the case? Surprisingly little research has examined actual differences between generations in religion, and none has explored how family religious influences have changed over the past half-century. This study examines such issues with 35 years of data from more than 3,500 members of 357 families—grandparents, parents, children, and great-grandchildren surveyed from 1970 to 2005, plus in-depth interviews with 157 members of 25 families starting in 2007.

Keywords:   families, generations, generation gap, Millennial generation, religion, youth

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