There has been an abundance of research on the relationship between parental religiosity and the psychological adjustment of children. Studies have examined how parents’ religions shape children’s religious beliefs as they enter adulthood. Research also has looked at how parental religious faith contributes to personality, anxiety, mood, aggression, and other behavior and mental health issues in children. Leah Power of the Department of Psychology at Mississippi State University wanted to extend the existing evidence even further. In a recent study, Power sought to determine how religiosity affected parenting practices and, in turn, psychological adjustment and development among emerging adults. She chose to study young adults because it is during this phase in life that children begin to reexamine the values they have been taught—specifically, religious values.
Power interviewed 486 young adults and found that those who felt their parents had demonstrated strong religious beliefs had strong religious beliefs of their own. Additionally, the participants who felt their parents had high levels of religious faith reported that their parents engaged in very positive parenting strategies, such as providing warmth and encouraging autonomy. The positive parenting was directly influential on positive psychological well-being in the participants. The results suggest that parents who have strong religiosity and faith-based well-being may indirectly pass those characteristics on to their children through demonstrations of faith and positive parenting practices.
Although some research suggests that high levels of parental religiosity lead to authoritative and harsh parenting, that trend was not found in this study. In fact, the opposite was discovered. Power believes that religious organizations can help maximize the benefits of this dynamic. “By promoting both religiosity and positive parenting practices, parents and religious organizations may be able to help children,” Power said. It is necessary to bear in mind that the results of this study were based solely on the young adults’ perceptions of their parents’ religiosity and parenting practices. Future work may consider assessing the parents’ faith and parenting techniques through a more objective lens in order to gain a less biased perspective. Until then, it may be surmised that it is how the parents’ behaviors and attitudes are perceived that ultimately shapes children’s outcomes.
Power, L., McKinney, C. (2012). Emerging adult perceptions of parental religiosity and parenting practices: Relationships with emerging adult religiosity and psychological adjustment. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030046
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