Don't Tell Me What to Believe
by mmcda1 on April 14, 2014 - 11:57pm
Many families today choose to structure their values around religion. Parents set rules for their children that align with what they hold true about a higher power. But what happens when the child’s beliefs don’t match up with what the parents want them to believe? Charles Stokes and Mark Regnerus conduct research to determine whether religious differences between children and their parents have a negative effect on their relationship. Their research is documented in the article When faith divides family: Religious discord and adolescent reports of parent-child relations. There are three different dimensions of religion that are considered in this study. They are religious importance, attendance and affiliation. The assumption is that when there is religious discord between parent and child then the quality of their relationship is very low. They also test to see if religious importance has a higher impact on parent-child relationship than does affiliation or attendance and additionally, if when the child reports more religious importance than the parent, then the quality of relationship between parent and child is much higher. Samples for this study were taken from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This study included children in grades 7-12 from a total of 80 different high schools in different geographical locations. The total number of adolescents surveyed was 13,303. The survey had students evaluate their relationship with their parents by asking things such as how close they were to each parent and how satisfied they were with the relationship. At the conclusion of the study some major findings surfaced. Most importantly they found that higher religious discord did in fact correlate with lower quality relationships between parents and children. However, the amount of adolescents who found religion to be less important than their parents did was much less common than anticipated at only 11% of students surveyed. On the contrary, when children hold religious importance higher than their parents do, then the relationship between them is stronger. Stokes and Regnerus suggest this may be because most religions put some sort of emphasis on obedience to parents. I think future research should be done to see why children’s higher level of religious importance impacts the parent child relationship much more positively.
The findings of the research done by Charles Stokes and Mark Regnerus could be interpreted in multiple ways. In their article they suggest that parents are frustrated with their children who do not value religion as highly has they do. When someone is trying to raise their child on specific values according to a religion they believe in, opposition to those beliefs can cause a major rift in that relationship. I have had firsthand experience with this as my mother is extremely religious. I was raised going to church every Sunday, saying my prayers at night and having family devotion time. I began to stray away from what my mother wanted me to believe during my high school years. This caused our relationship to deteriorate. We would constantly fight over things such as dating or going to dances. I think the restrictive requirements associated with religion makes it hard for adolescents to fit in which is why they rebel against their parents beliefs. However, Stokes and Regnerus also propose that children who have better relationships with their parents to begin with are less likely to drop their religious affiliations at an older age. I think it is interesting that they found children who hold religious importance higher than their parents have shown a higher quality relationship. Even though most religions emphasize parental obedience it has been my experience that when a child holds religion higher than their parent does it causes the child to become frustrated with the parent resulting in a strained relationship. My mother, for example, has a strained relationship with her mother because of religious discord. Her mother wants nothing to do with my mother’s religion and this hurts my mom deeply. Stokes and Regnerus (2009) note in their conclusion “religious discord can be extremely detrimental to parent-child relationships, as one party dismisses concepts that remain elemental-or even sacred-to the other” (p. 167). It is my opinion that the effects religious discord has on parent-child relationships depends completely on the familial situation but as the research suggests, when there is discord there is also strain on the parent-child relationship to some degree.
Stokes, C. E., & Regnerus, M. D. (2009). When faith divides family: Religious discord and adolescent reports of parent–child relations. Social Science Research, 38(1), 155-167.