In the Course of a Lifetime: Tracing Religious Belief, Practice, and Change

In the Course of a Lifetime: Tracing Religious Belief, Practice, and Change

In the Course of a Lifetime: Tracing Religious Belief, Practice, and Change

In the Course of a Lifetime: Tracing Religious Belief, Practice, and Change

Synopsis

In the Course of a Lifetime provides an unprecedented portrait of the dynamic role religion plays in the everyday experiences of Americans over the course of their lives. The book draws from a unique sixty-year-long study of close to two hundred mostly Protestant and Catholic men and women who were born in the 1920s and interviewed in adolescence, and again in the 1950s, 1970s, 1980s, and late 1990s. Woven throughout with rich, intimate life stories, the book presents and analyzes a wide range of data from this study on the participants' religious and spiritual journeys. A testament to the vibrancy of religion in the United States, In the Course of a Lifetime provides an illuminating and sometimes surprising perspective on how individual lives have intersected with cultural change throughout the decades of the twentieth century.

Excerpt

Many social scientists are indebted to people who are so generous of spirit that they willingly sit down and talk to interviewers, answering their intrusive and probing questions about all kinds of things going on in their lives. Our debt must be larger than most. The data we use in this book came from a longitudinal study of men and women born in Northern California in the 1920s; they were interviewed intensively in childhood and adolescence and four times in adulthood: in 1958, 1970, and 1982, and at the end of the 1990s. Again and again, these individuals, who came from a mix of social backgrounds, opened up their lives so that psychologists and sociologists might learn something about the human condition and how the interplay among the self, social relationships, and the American cultural context shapes people’s experiences and life outcomes. We are deeply indebted to all the participants, and especially to the 184 individuals most recently interviewed in late adulthood, between 1997 and 2000. We are grateful to them for their remarkable commitment to participating in the study throughout their lives. Our debt to the study participants, though enormous, does not end with them, but extends to include their parents, many of whom were interviewed when the study participants were adolescents, and to the participants’ spouses, who were interviewed at various times over the decades.

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