intergenerational transmission of religion, parenting, religious youth, parent-youth relationships


Research has found that intergenerational transmission of religiosity results in higher family functioning and improved family relationships. Yet the Pew Research Center found that 44% of Americans reported that they had left the religious affiliation of their childhood. And 78% of the expanding group of those who identify as religiously unaffiliated (“Nones”) reported that they were raised in “highly religious families.” We suggest that this may be, in part, associated with religious parents exercising excessive firmness with inadequate flexibility (rigidity). We used a multiphase, systematic, team-based process to code 8000+ pages of in-depth interviews from 198 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim families from 17 states in all 8 major religio-cultural regions of the United States. We framed firmness as mainly about loyalty to God and God’s purposes, and flexibility as mainly about loyalty to family members and their needs and circumstances. The reported findings provided a range of examples illustrating (a) religious firmness, (b) religious flexibility, as well as (c) efforts to balance and combine firmness and flexibility. We discuss conceptual and practical implications of treating firmness and flexibility as complementary loyalties in intergenerational faith transmission.

Original Publication Citation

Dollahite, D. C., Marks, L. D., *Babcock, K. P., *Barrow, B. H., & Rose, A. H. (2019). Beyond religious rigidities: Religious firmness and religious flexibility as complementary loyalties in faith transmission. Religions, 10, 111.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor