religion, parent–child relationships, qualitative, parenting, family


Religion can have both helpful and harmful influences on relationships. The purpose of this study is to better understand how religion can have both a unifying and a dividing influence on parent–child relationships. Through the use of interviews with 198 highly religious families (N = 476 individuals), we address some of the complexity inherent in religion and examine the influence of three dimensions of religious experience (religious practices, religious beliefs, and religious community). Findings are supported with primary qualitative data. For the highly religious parents and children in this study, 8 times as many unifying accounts of religion than dividing accounts were identified. However, a substantial number of dividing accounts were still found. Religion appeared to be particularly divisive when religious beliefs or practices conflicted with children's desire to fit in and spend time with their peer groups. Implications and suggestions for future research are offered.

Original Publication Citation

Kelley, H. H., Marks, L. D., & Dollahite, D. C. (2020, May 14). Uniting and Dividing Influences of Religion on Parent–Child Relationships in Highly Religious Families. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Psychology of Religion and Spirituality




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor