Children of actively religious divorced parents are more likely to change or move away from religion, according to new research.
A study by Baylor University, a private Christian university in Waco, Texas, suggests that this is due to the fact that children lack constant proximity to a second religious parent after divorce.
The study, led by Assistant Professor of Sociology Jeremy Uecker, was published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Findings suggest that children who grow up with one parent throughout their formative years are twice as likely to disassociate themselves from their parents’ religion as those with married religious parents. Professor Uecker does note, however, that having divorced parents is not as significant a factor in a child’s religious beliefs as previous research had stated.
The professor said:
“These associations…are overstated because prior studies have not taken into account the religious commitments of both parents prior to divorce”.
“Because parents from different religious traditions and with differing levels of religious service attendance are more likely to divorce, and because having these types of parents is associated with lower religiosity later in life, it could be that we’ve been attributing the effect of parental religious differences to parental divorce.”
Professor Uecker also said that children of divorce could be shocked by their parents’ separation if they thought it was ordained by God:
“When it ends, that could rock their world and have lasting effects”.
The study is based on the results of surveys completed by 3,346 children of divorced parents, in the years 1991, 1998 and 2008.