Keeping the Faith: Religious Transmission and Apostasy in Generation X

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Title: Keeping the Faith: Religious Transmission and Apostasy in Generation X
Author: Nooney, Jennifer Elizabeth
Advisors: Ronald Wimberley, Committee Member
Ronald Czaja, Committee Member
Catherine Zimmer, Committee Member
Eric Woodrum, Committee Chair
Abstract: This research examines two social processes determining the religiosity of Generation Xers. One is the transmission of religious affiliation and behaviors from Boomer parents to their Generation X children. The other is apostasy -- the process of disengagement from religion -- measured over time as Xers aged into young adulthood. The study flows from and informs several theories of religious change at societal and individual levels, including secularization theory and the related cultural broadening theory, social learning theory, and rational choice theory. The study also speaks to questions of generational continuity and change. Hypotheses are tested using nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Analyses show that many of the potent predictors of transmission and apostasy found in past research continue to be strong predictors among members of Generation X. High levels of parental involvement in religion were associated with more effective transmission of religious affiliation. Other factors facilitating transmission included two-parent household structures, religious homogamy among parents, good parent-child relationships, and conservative Protestant or Catholic background. Lower levels of apostasy were associated with high levels of parental and adolescent involvement in 1995, good parent-child relationships, college attendance, and well-educated parents. Results show that Generation X adolescents are adopting the religion of their parents at relatively high rates and that their rates of apostasy compare favorably to those of their Boomer parents during the 1970s. Support was found for each of the perspectives on individual religious change except cultural broadening theory, and by association, the societal-level perspective of secularization theory. None of the results suggest that college education -- a broadening experience that may challenge students' world views -- contributes to apostasy. This research shows that there is no reason to suspect that the religious subsystem of American society is in serious danger owing to a high rate of religious defection in Generation X.
Date: 2006-04-17
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology

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