SCIENCE: Your Kids Are Atheists Because You Don’t Connect With Them

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

Parents’ failure to connect with their kids may be contributing to the U.S.’ skyrocketing numbers of nonreligious people, according to a study.

The August study, published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, demonstrated that children tend to be far less religious than their parents, indicating that their parents failed to impress their spiritual values them. The study’s researchers previously developed a scale, called the Nonreligious-Nonspiritual Scale (NRNSS), to measure how secular an individual is. (RELATED: SCIENCE: Your Pious Hypocrisy Is Gonna Make Your Kid An Atheist)

The researchers’ findings, using that scale, demonstrated not only the scale’s effectiveness, but also a possible relationship between the depth or lack thereof in parent-child connection and the levels of secularism in rising generations.

“Once we had a measure that could be used regardless of someone’s religious worldview, we thought a useful application would be to compare the religious/secular distance between parents and children (this was largely inspired by co-author Nick Autz, who was a high school student at the time we undertook the project),” said study author Ryan T. Cragun of the University of Tampa, according to PsyPost.

Understanding the relationship between parental connection and the presence or lack of religious values in their children could prove to be one of the key factors to understanding why at least 23 percent of Americans now stand in the ranks of the “Nones” — those who check “none” on survey questions about religious affiliation.

“There are two things people should take away from the study. First, the NRNSS is a very useful instrument for measuring how secular people are and it can be applied across religious worldviews,” Cragun said.

“Second, children — at least children in the U.S. insofar as our study can be generalized to them — do tend to be less religious than their parents. That finding helps to explain the growing rates of nonreligious people in the U.S. as much of the rise of nonreligion is the failure of parents to transmit their religion to their children,” he added.

The researchers surveyed 196 students from a single high school and 328 of their legal guardians. Findings demonstrated that the majority of students were far less religious than their parents, as evidenced by the disparity between the students’ and their parents’ agreement with notions like “I’m guided by religion when making important decisions in my life” and “I have a spirit/essence beyond my physical body.”

The study was severely limited by its sample size, however, and the authors noted that a larger, nationally representative sample would be needed before they could prove that the conclusion of their study is accurate.

“Given current trends, understanding what nonreligious people are like and why people are leaving religion is going to be of growing importance both in the U.S. and in many other developed and developing countries around the world,” Cragun said.

“In the U.K., the nonreligious now outnumber the religious and, if patterns continue as they currently have, it won’t be too much longer before the U.S. follows suit and less than 50% of Americans are religious,” he added.

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