(The Roys Report) American churches have long been concerned about retaining the young people who have grown up in their pews. But research shows churches are looking in the wrong place. Parents are the key factor in whether a child embraces his parents’ faith. A recent study I published in the academic journal Sociology of Religion shows yet another predictor: religious conservatism.
Using data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, I find that when parents identify as religious conservatives, their young adult children (ages 23-28) attend church more often and report higher levels of faith.
Children of religious conservatives have a predicted 19% chance of going to church at least weekly, compared with 15% of their peers from more moderate or liberal families. If we look at the probability of never attending after leaving their family’s home, this flips. A predicted 43% of children of religious conservatives have left the pews entirely, compared with 52% for the rest.