Religious Identity Remains Constant in Teen Years: Study

Participation may decline, but belief system stays steady through high school, research suggests

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THURSDAY, July 7, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Many American teens maintain their religious identity through high school, even though their participation in church and other religious activities declines, a new study finds.

This was true of teens in all three groups studied -- from Asian, Latin American and European backgrounds -- according to University of California, Los Angeles psychiatry professor Andrew J. Fuligni and colleagues.

The study of 500 teens in the Los Angeles area also found that those from Latin American and Asian backgrounds had higher levels of religious identity, and teens from Latin American backgrounds had higher rates of religious participation.

Changes in religious identity that did occur among some teens were associated with changes in ethnic and family identities. This suggests important links in the development of these social identities during the teen years, the researchers said.

The study was released online recently in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Child Development.

The finding that many teens maintain their religious identity through high school wasn't a surprise, despite perceptions that the teen years are full of angst and turmoil, Fuligni said.

"Greater change likely occurs at prominent points of transition, such as the upcoming transition to adulthood," Fuligni said in a UCLA news release. "Moving away from home, encountering new work environments, attending college, developing long-term romantic relationships -- those markers in our lives -- are all features of the period after high school that may cause more significant change in religious identity."

More information

For more about how spirituality affects family health, visit the Nemours Foundation.

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, June 30, 2011

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