Study Finds Kids Often Get Their Religious Faith from Their Mothers

(Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters)
(Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters)

A new study suggests women are the primary models for religious faith in many households.

It’s often the moms: the ones who do the cleaning and volunteer at school and know the ins and outs of their kids’ diets and health records. Men and women in American households may be taking on more and more equal roles, but there are some spheres in which women still dominate.

And that, apparently, includes religion.

A new report from the Pew Research Center suggests mothers have more influence on their children’s religious upbringings than fathers, especially  in interfaith households. One-third of respondents in a survey of roughly 5,000 Americans said their mom was more responsible for their religious experiences than their dad. In families with parents of mixed religious backgrounds, the percentage was well more than half. This was especially true in households in which one parent was religious, and the other wasn’t; in those cases, nearly two-thirds of respondents said their mom had the most influence on their religious lives.

There are some straightforward demographic explanations for why this might be the case. American women tend to be more religious than men: In surveys, they’re more likely than men to say religion is “very important” to them; to report going to services at least once a week; and to report praying on a daily basis. They also tend to hang onto their faith, even when they marry someone who isn’t religious: In roughly 83 percent of interfaith households in which one parent is non-religious, Pew reports, the women are the ones who are still religious.

All of that being said, it’s difficult to know why, exactly, mothers tend to have this kind of influence on their kids, especially given the wide variety of religious traditions and experiences that were covered in the report.

Women’s religiosity can have tangible consequences on the lives of families. According to Pew, nearly half of people who grew up in interfaith households now practice their mom’s faith, compared to less than a third who practice their dad’s. And religiosity factors much more into women’s perceptions of their marriage prospects and happiness: 68 percent of unmarried women said a potential spouse’s religion is “very” or “somewhat” important to them, compared to 55 percent of men.

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SOURCE: The Atlantic
Emma Green

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