Do Faith and Religiosity Influence Positive Parenting?

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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  • Meg


    October 10th, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    It is always comforting to believe that there is a greater power than your own that has a steadying influence over our world, and I find that when I tune in more to my own spiritual and religious beliefs I become an all around better person.

    Life doesn’t seem quite so hectic and stressful anymore once I acknowledge that I do not have all of the power and that there is definitely something greater than all of us in control.

    Now does this make me a better parent? I like to think so. I find that when I turn it all over, and realize that there are bound to be things in life that are out of my control, then I also have an easier time being the rational and calm person that my family needs for me to be.

    We all need a steadying influence in our lives, and my faith is what offers this to me.

  • Rob


    October 23rd, 2018 at 4:59 AM

    Ignorance is bliss…

  • jilly t

    jilly t

    October 10th, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Well I sure hope so. Wouln’t be very good publicity for organized religion as a whole if it didn’t ;)

  • Ben


    October 11th, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    But haven’t we all seen this go the other way too, it somehow goes horribly wrong when you invest too much of your time and your child’s time tied up in the church? There are many families whom I have witnessed who get so tied up and focused on this one aspect of their lives that they neglect others. Do you really think that this is what God intended for religion to be? I don’t. There has to be some kind of balance that is maintained in the home to achieve that perfect balance and harmony that most families work for. This should not take precedence over time spent meaningfully with your children and your spouse. Religion should offer guidance and support but by no means should it have to be the sole focal point in your life.

  • Wallace Rector

    Wallace Rector

    October 11th, 2012 at 4:33 AM

    Nine times out of ten, exposing your child to a faith based family from birth onward, is going to lead to strong religios values and a deep moral conviction over right and wrong. Having this as a consistent part of your familiy life will only serve to strengthen your faith in God, but will give you the power to parent through those hard times that you only know have to be coming. It is so much better having a place for faith and religion in your family, for both the questions that life provides as well as the answers that so many of us seek.

  • L.B


    October 11th, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Well I think positive values and codes of conduct are what’s more important to parenting than religiosity. Its not like a religious person is better than an atheist as a parent or the other way around, it depends on what the person inculcates in his/her children that matters. And I do not think t hat has as much an influence from religion as it does from personality.

  • bryn


    October 11th, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Religion kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth
    We always had to be there growing up any time the doors were open
    I have found that I can be much more open to being a spiritual being without always having to knock down the church doors
    And I think that I am just as strong a parent even though church is not necessarily a part of our daily lives.

  • Calvin


    October 11th, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    Good parenting,whether by religious parents or otherwise,will be good parenting.As to whether religion promotes good parenting,I think yes it does,but the same can be achieved even by parents who are not religious if they do aim at achieving the same levels of parenting for their children.The source does not matter but what you inculcate does.

  • Jeremiah


    October 12th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    Bryn- I am so sorry that you feel this way. I believe the exact opposite that you do. Faith gives me hope, it gives me something to believe in, and it gives me strength to do the hard stuff even when I don’t want to do it. I know that being religious can be a challenge- I think that this is something that even the most spiritual person would confess to. It is not always easy having to face the fact that we have made mistakes and may not be living the kind of life that our religion proscribes. But wouldn’t it also be comforting to know that despite all of our downfalls and our mistakes, that we are still forgiven for these sins? And that we are instilling this same faith and love in our own children? Maybe this isn’t for you, I don’t know, but maybe one day it could be.

  • McCoy


    October 12th, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    I for one choose to believe that this is true.
    Parents feel good about what they are doing for their children then their children will continue to feel good about themselves.
    That’s what I want my own children to feel.

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