Giving Up Something Good for Something Better: Sacred Sacrifices Made by Religious Youth


religiosity, spirituality, adolescence, youth, families, sacrifice


The concept of sacrifice was formerly a key variable in theorizing about religion and society. Secularization theory and conceptual models equating sacrifice with cost have reduced its usage and apparent relevance, although it continues to be of interest in anthropology and religious studies. Research on sacrifice has been neglected in the social sciences, especially in studies of religiosity and families. Seventy-seven religious adolescents in 55 religious Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Mormon families in New England and northern California were interviewed about whether they felt they had been asked to make sacrifices for their faith as they were growing up. This article discusses how contemporary religious youth view the sacrifices they make for religious reasons. Adolescents reported sacrifices in five domains: societal expectations, popular culture, comforts and pleasures, time and activities, and peer relations. Youth gave the following reasons for being willing to make sacrifices: connecting to a higher meaning or purpose, connecting to God, connecting to the faith tradition or community, fulfilling expectations, feeling affective benefits, and avoiding problems.

Original Publication Citation

Dollahite, D. C., Layton, E., Bahr, H. M., Walker, A. B., & Thatcher, J. Y. (2009). Giving up something good for something better: Sacred sacrifices made by religious youth. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24, 691-725.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Adolescent Research




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor