American teenagers and their parents tend to have a lot in common – though not quite as much as the parents may think as they share a religious identity, a new analysis of a Pew Research Center survey data shows.
It shows that most U.S. teens share the religious affiliation of their parents or legal guardians.
Protestant parents are likely to have teens who identify as Protestants, while Catholic parents mostly have teens who consider themselves Catholics, while the vast majority of religiously unaffiliated parents have teens who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.”
Yet withing the broad Protestant category there are stark differences.
Eight-in-ten parents who affiliate with an evangelical Protestant denomination have a teen who also identifies as an evangelical Protestant.
But among parents who belong to mainstream Protestant denominations such as the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 55percent have a teen who identifies in the same way – and 24percent have an unaffiliated teen.
Among adults, women tend to be more religious than men, but this gap isn’t nearly as pronounced among teens. In the United States, for example, women are more likely than men to say religion is “very important” in their lives (60 percent against 47 percent), according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey.
Adolescent boys and girls are equally likely to be religiously affiliated, say religion is very important in their lives, pray daily and say they regularly attend religious services. Furthermore, roughly six-in-ten teenage boys (58 percent) and girls (61 percent) say they have ever been in a religious education program.
Girls do stand out, however, on religious youth group participation: 57 percent say they have participated in a religious youth group, compared with 44 percen of boys who say the same.
Generally, U.S. teens attend religious services about as often as their parents.
The survey shows that 44 percent of U.S. teens say they go to religious services at least once a month, almost exactly the same as the share of their parents who say they attend monthly (43 percent).
Parents are more likely than teens to say religion is extremely very important in their lives.
When there are religious differences between adults and their 13- to 17-year-old children, however, it’s usually the teens who are less religious than the parents.
For instance, far fewer teens (24 percent) than parents (43 percent) say that religion is extremely important in their lives.
The survey also asked parents and teens about how important they think religion is in the other person’s life.
It found that, overall, most follow the same pattern.
For example, 73 percent of teens give the same answer as their parent about how important religion is to the parent, and 68 percent of parents give the same answer about how important religion is to their teen.
But among those who do not agree, parents are far more likely to overestimate the importance of religion to their teen than to underestimate it.
MORE IMPORTANCE FOR PARENTS
For example, among all parents who give a different answer than their teen does regarding the importance of religion to the teen, 69 percent think religion is more important in the life of their teen than their teen does.
And 29 percent believe it is less important to their teen than their teens says. Meanwhile, among all teens who give a different answer than their parent on the importance of religion in their parents’ lives, 43 percent overestimate how important religion is to their parent, while 55 percent underestimate it.
Half of teens say they hold all the same religious beliefs as their parent …And of approximately 1,800 teenagers who were surveyed alongside one of their parents, about half the teens (48 percent) say they have “all the same” religious beliefs as their parent.
But among the other half of all teens – those who say they share “some of the same” beliefs or hold “quite different” beliefs from their parent – about one-third (34 percent) say their parent doesn’t know that they differ religiously. And one-in-six (17 percent) say this difference causes at least some conflict in their household.
When asked how many of their religious beliefs they hold in common, most teens and parents give the same answer.
That includes 40 percent of teen-parent pairs who say they hold “all the same” beliefs and 30 percent who agree that they hold “some of the same” beliefs.
But in roughly a quarter of cases (27 percent), their responses do not align – and most of those are situations in which the parent assumes a higher level of agreement.
For example, 12 percent of the pairs consist of a parent who says they share all the same religious beliefs as their teen, but a teen who disagrees. And another 4 percent consist of a parent who says they share some beliefs with their teen, while the teen says their beliefs are quite different.
Four-in-ten teens say they share all the same religious beliefs as their parent – and their parent agrees
Less-religious parents are highly likely to have teens who also are less religious.
Naturally, differences can occur in both directions:
There are nonreligious parents who have highly religious teens, as well as the other way around.
But the survey data suggests that, by some traditional measures of religious observance – religious importance and prayer – highly religious parents are less likely to have teenagers who share their beliefs than nonreligious parents are to have teenagers without strong religious beliefs.