Parents and peers are more important than schools for kids’ religion

According to Jeremy Uecker’s article, “Alternative Schooling Strategies and the Religious Lives of American Adolescents,” published in the December 2008 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

. . . At best, schooling has a limited effectiveness on student religiosity. Parents and friends, however, strongly affect each aspect of religious life in the study. Students who have more religious parents and friends are more likely to attend church, Sunday school, and church youth group. They are also more likely to consider religion more important to their lives and to have private devotions (praying and reading the Bible on their own).

The good news for parents is that while the choice of schooling is important, the most effective thing they can do to affect the religious life of their children is to take their own spiritual life seriously and to encourage their children to build friendships with peers who are also faithful Christians. . .

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4 thoughts on “Parents and peers are more important than schools for kids’ religion

  1. steph says:

    You forgot the apostrophe in kids’. Isn’t this kind of obvious though? Those people closest to the ‘kids’ are parents and peers and these people have the greatest influence. If these people are religious despite the school not teaching religion the kids will still likely be religious too.

    • Ben says:

      Thanks Steph, I noticed it after I went off-line.

      This is obvious, but I’m always surprised at how much people fret about needing to put their kids in Christian schools or homeschool. I’ll admit that I am happy that my kids are learning the faith Kenyan Christian style and that they don’t have to deal with the behavioral problems that some of their cousins had to deal with in US urban schools. When they are older I expect that they will be in a non-religious schools. At some point, their faith has to be their own – regardless of their environment. In the meantime, we try to be as open about the harsh realities of life as we can.

  2. steph says:

    Personally I think it’s better for religious kids with a religious environment to go to secular schools so they can be introduced to other world views. It might broaden their minds and make them more tolerant adults. I’ve known plenty of religious kids who went to religious schools and grew up atheists. And gees Ben, religious schools have behaviour problems too. And despite the fact that I went to a co-ed large secular high school with behaviour problems, I was always a goody two shoes! But I had a happy home with my (single) mother. The home is more important than anything.

  3. Ben says:

    I agree. I was just giving my personal facts for the purpose of full disclosure. I know religious schools have behavior problems, I went to one of them too, and also did fine for a year in a huge American public school. However, in our case here, and where we were in the states there are some striking differences. (In Paris our kids went to the municiple schools and that was great.) I’m just saying I happen to like the school my kids are going to now, and I try expose them to other views at home.

    Frankly, I know a lot of people that had much a much richer faith community in secular schools than some that went to Christian schools.

    Of the kids that grow up atheists, I wonder about the faith of their parents and how honest their parents were about doubts, etc. Not that there is ever a formula.

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