Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults


How important is religion for young people in America today? What are the major influences on their developing spiritual lives? How do their religious beliefs and practices change as young people enter into adulthood?
Christian Smith's Souls in Transition explores these questions and many others as it tells the definitive story of the religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults, ages 18 to 24, in the U.S. today. This is the much-anticipated follow-up study to the landmark book,Soul Searching: The Religiousand Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Based on candid interviews with thousands of young people tracked over a five-year period,Souls in Transitionreveals how the religious practices of the teenagers portrayed in Soul Searching have been strengthened, challenged, and often changed as they have moved into adulthood. The book vividly describes as well the broader cultural world of today's emerging adults, how that culture shapes their religious outlooks, and what the consequences are for religious faith and practice in America more generally. Some of Smith's findings are surprising. Parents turn out to be the single most important influence on the religious outcomes in the lives of young adults. On the other hand, teenage participation in evangelization missions and youth groups does not predict a high level of religiosity just a few years later. Moreover, the common wisdom that religiosity declines sharply during the young adult years is shown to be greatly exaggerated.

Painstakingly researched and filled with remarkable findings,Souls in Transitionwill be essential reading for youth ministers, pastors, parents, teachers and students at church-related schools, and anyone who wishes to know how religious practice is affected by the transition into adulthood in America today.


What happens in the religious and spiritual lives of American teen agers when they start to grow up, end high school, and begin to leave home to launch their own new adult lives? What do the religious and spiritual lives of American 18- to 23-year-olds look like and why? What are the social influences that shape people’s lives of during this phase? And how do people change or not change religiously and spiritually as they exit their teenage years and head into their twenties? These are the questions this book seeks to answer.


In this book, we analyze and interpret data collected in the third wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) in order to better understand the religious and spiritual lives of what we will here call “emerging adults.” With our colleagues on the project, we have been studying the sample of young people on whom this study is based since they were 13–17 years old, when the survey started out—with a nationally representative telephone survey of 3,290 of them followed by personal interviews with 267 of them in 45 states around the country. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers was published in 2005, based on what was learned from that first wave of data collected. In 2005, a second telephone survey was conducted with most of the same subjects, and 122 of the same respondents were reinterviewed. Throughout these years, the researchers continued to systematically stay in touch with and track as many of the study respondents as was humanly . . .

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