According to a recent study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, children of actively religious parents are twice as likely to choose a different religious path – and sometimes no religious path at all -- after their folks split up, compared to children whose actively religious parents remain married.
The study, which was led Assistant Professor of Sociology Jeremy Uecker at
While Uecker suggests that some kids reject their parent’s religious beliefs due to the shock of divorce (“How could God let this happen?”), he points out that the major driving force behind the results suggested by his study is less about an existential crisis, than it is about parental influence. That is, instead of two parents providing direct and indirect influence of a religious nature, after divorce there’s typically one parent in that role.
At the same time, Uecker was quick to point out that the association between religious children of married parents, and non-religious children of divorce parents, has typically been overstated in previous studies.
“These associations…are overstated because prior studies have not taken into account the religious commitments of both parents prior to divorce.”
And speaking of religious commitments, Uecker also noted that parents with different beliefs are more likely to divorce – which can affect their children’s religious choices.
“Because parents from different religious traditions and with differing levels of religious service attendance are more likely to divorce, and because having these types of parents is associated with lower religiosity later in life, it could be that we’ve been attributing the effect of parental religious differences to parental divorce.”
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