Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Perceived Parental Acceptance as a Moderator of Religious Transmission among Adolescent Boys and Girls

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Perceived Parental Acceptance as a Moderator of Religious Transmission among Adolescent Boys and Girls

Article excerpt

Using a sample of 407 families living in rural areas of North Central Iowa, this study examines religious transmission between same-sex and cross-sex parent-child groups. The analyses focus on the mechanisms through which adolescents' perceptions of parental acceptance moderate the transmission of religious beliefs and practices. Results show that both fathers and mothers played important roles in transmitting religious beliefs and practices to their sons and daughters. Mothers' influence was stronger than fathers' when the adolescents perceived the parent as accepting. This effect was especially strong for sons.

During the past two decades, evidence has accumulated showing that religion is significant in adolescent development. The family is the primary agent of religious socialization (Hyde, 1990), and virtually all research has identified parents as the most important source of religious influence (Aldous, 1983; Ozorak, 1989). The research literature indicates that intergenerational transmission of religious beliefs and practices occurs through modeling of parents' behaviors and beliefs (Cornwall, 1988; Dudley & Dudley, 1986; Willits & Crider, 1989) and reinforcing supportive parent-child relationships (Hunsberger, 1983; Kirkpatrick & Shaver, 1990).


Social learning theory holds that much of what a child learns is based on day-to-day observation of attitudes and behavior performed by significant others who serve as role models. In their research on imitation and modeling processes, Bandura and his associates (Bandura & Kupers, 1964; Bandura & McDonald, 1963; Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961) identified parental models central to the development of children's personalities. Regular association and interaction with parents repeatedly give children opportunities to observe and imitate their parents in many day-to-day activities. Such observational learning may lead children to share their parents' values, attitudes, and behaviors. Grusec and Kuczynski (1997) argued that parents are the most crucial influence on children's acquisition of values because of their unique position in the lives of their children. Childrearing puts parents in the strongest position to develop positive relationships with their children and to monitor and understand their children.

Religiosity or religiousness refers to the importance of religion in a person's life. It has multiple dimensions, including beliefs and practices (Glock & Stark, 1965; Weigert & Thomas, 1969), which represent attitudes and behaviors in social learning theory. In his framework for intergenerational learning, Cornwall (1988) explained that religiosity is a behavior that a person learns from those around him or her. Because parents' religious beliefs and practices are learned in the home, continuity in religiousness is expected between parents and children.

Research consistently has shown that parental religiosity is an important predictor of adolescent religious beliefs and practices. For example, parental church attendance is strongly associated with adolescent church attendance and religious beliefs (Cox, 1967; Suziedelis & Potvin, 1981), and parents' religious practices are positively related to all aspects of religiousness in early and middle adolescence (Ozorak, 1989). Parker and Gaier (1980) reported that parents' participation in religious activities accounted for more than 60% of the variance in the religious beliefs and practices of their high school children. In accordance with Turner's (1964) idea of parents' dominant role in transmitting religious values and attitudes, de Vaus (1983) found that parents played a more important role than peers in adolescent development of religious values and beliefs. In a study of agreement with religious values between fathers and mothers and youth, Dudley and Dudley (1986) found that youths' religious values resembled their parents' religious values. …

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