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Survey says most US parents want to pass faith down to kids

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J-P Mauro - published on 05/14/23

The findings also show that most children tend to retain the faith instilled in them by their parents, regardless of religious beliefs.

A new survey from Pew Research Center is examining the importance parents place on passing their faith down to their children. The findings of the study suggest that most parents want their children to believe the same things they do, which is about as true for parents who place a strong importance on religion as it is for parents who do not particularly care about faith practice. 

The survey, which was conducted last fall, found that 35% of parents said it was “extremely” or “very” important that their kids grow up sharing their religious views. The figure was more than twice as high as respondents who placed a high importance on their kids sharing their political views (16%).

Familial synchronicity of both religion and politics, however, were found to be of lower overall importance to parents than ensuring their children are “honest and ethical,” as well as “hard-working and ambitious.”

Furthermore, it seems that parental transmission of faith is an extremely effective means of instilling a strong faith identity within children. Pew surveyed some 1,800 teens aged 13-17 and found that the vast majority of them shared the faith of their parents. Catholic parents produced Catholic teens at a rate of 81%, which rose to 82% with Protestant parents. Even higher, however, were parents with no particular religion – “nones” – 86% of whom reported having children without any particular faith.

The study then turned to compare the rates at which children retained their parent’s religion when raised in a single-religious household to those raised in a household of multiple faiths. The majority of those raised to a single religion tended to retain that faith as they got older. The rates, however, differed somewhat based on religion, with Protestants reporting at a rate of 79%, Catholics at 62%, and “nones” standing equal at 62%. 

Those raised in a single-faith household in which only one parent was religious were found to have slightly lower rates of retention. In this scenario, single-parent faith instruction was more effective for Protestants (56%), than Catholics (32%). In this group, about a third of both Protestant and Catholic parents found their children did not hold any particular religious beliefs.

Children raised in a household where one parent was Protestant and the other was Catholic was a bit of a toss up. It was found that 38% of these identified as Protestant, 29% were Catholic, 26% were unaffiliated, and 7% belonged to other religions.

Read the full report at Pew Research Center.

ChildrenFaithParentingUnited States
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