Religious Exploration Among Highly Religious American Adolescents


religious exploration, adolescence, relationships, life experience


A qualitative investigation of adolescent religious exploration was conducted with 78 religious adolescents. Interviews were analyzed using a grounded theory approach to identify common themes underlying their experiences of religious exploration. Three key themes emerged. First, various circumstances, contexts, and relationships in adolescents’ lives serve as catalysts for initiating religious exploration. Second, adolescents used many different strategies of exploration. Often exploration is fostered or hindered by social relationships. At other times it is fostered or hindered by salient life experiences, or through other learning processes. Third, in terms of patterns of exploration, adolescents tended to use present identity commitments as a secure base from which to explore other areas of their identity or other aspects of their religiosity. These findings challenge overly simplistic notions of religious exploration as simply doubt, highlight the importance of relational contexts, and point to a more sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of commitment and exploration.

Original Publication Citation

Layton, E., Hardy, S. A., & Dollahite, D. C. (2012). Religious exploration among highly religious American adolescents. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 12, 157–184.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor