Handing Down the Faith
The most important influence shaping the religious and spiritual lives of children, youth, and teenagers is their parents. A myriad of studies show that the parents of American youth play the leading role in shaping the character of their religious and spiritual lives, even well after they leave home and often for the rest of their lives. We know a lot about the importance of parents in faith transmission. However we know much less about the actual beliefs, feelings, and activities of the parents themselves, what Christian Smith and Amy Adamczyk call the "intergenerational transmission of religious faith and practice." To address that gap, this book reports the findings of a new national study of religious parents in the United States. The findings and conclusions in Handing Down the Faith are based on 215 in-depth, personal interviews with religious parents from many traditions and different parts of the country, and sophisticated analyses of two nationally representative surveys of American parents about their religious parenting. Handing Down the Faith explores the background beliefs informing how and why religious parents seek to pass on religion to their children; examines how parenting styles interact with parent religiousness to shape effective religious transmission; shows how parents have been influenced by their experiences as children influenced by their own parents; reveals how religious parents view their congregations and what they most seek out in a local church, synagogue, temple, or mosque; explores the experiences and outlooks of immigrant parents including Latino Catholics, East Asian Buddhists, South Asian Muslims, and Indian Hindus. Smith and Adamczyk step back to consider how American religion has transformed over the last 100 years and to explain why parents today shoulder such a huge responsibility in transmitting religious faith and practice to their children. The book is rich in empirical evidence and unique in many of the topics it explores and explains, providing a variety of sometimes counterintuitive findings that will interest scholars of religion, social scientists interested in the family, parenting, and socialization; clergy and religious educators and leaders; and religious parents themselves.