Teenagers retain their religious identity even while they
drop out of religious activities, a study
of high-school students in Los Angeles has found.
Should we be surprised? Probably not. Even one of the
authors of the study says adolescents are more likely to change their religious
identity when they move away from home, encounter new work environments, have a
steady romantic relationship and so on.
Still, it is interesting that, even among today’s young
people, identity lasts as practice declines.
The study group was 500 students from three public high
schools who filled out questionnaires during their sophomore, junior and senior
high school years. They were from Asian, Latin American and European
backgrounds, and their parents’ occupational/educational status ranged from
lower middle class to upper middle class. Regardless, their identity remained
Teens from Latin American and Asian backgrounds reported
higher levels of religious identity, and Latin Americans also reported higher
levels of religious participation.
When there were changes in religious identity in this age
group, they were linked with “changes in ethnic and family identity”. Not too
sure what that means, but maybe divorce and remarriage across ethnic lines
would be one way a family’s identity could change.
For those interested in encouraging kids to be actively
religious, this confirms that there is material to work with.