What faith means for families

What’s happening to American religion? One recent report reveals that more than one in five Americans now say they have no religion. Another report says that the religion itself is bad, arguing that in too many pulpits, fashionable forms of spirituality are replacing traditional Christianity.

On Jan. 16, researchers, Elizabeth Marquardt, Amy Ziettlow, and Charles E. Stokes at the Institute for American Values, issued a report entitled “Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?” This report provides significant evidence that churches and communities have not done enough to confront the impact of family breakdown on the spiritual lives of young people.

By the time they turn 15, 40 percent of children in the United States will confront the dissolution of a parent’s marriage or cohabiting relationship, and more than 8 percent will experience three or more maternal co-residential relationships.

About one in four of today’s young adults are grown children of divorce, and more than 40 percent of American children are now born outside of marriage.

Children of divorce overall are less religious when they grow up, with clear implications for the vitality of the churches.

In one study, just over half who grew up in divorced families say they are very or fairly religious, as opposed to two-thirds of young adults who grew up in married parent families. More than a third of people from married parent families currently attend religious services almost every week, compared to just a quarter of people from divorced families.

The report indicates there is hope, however. Children of divorce are seeking consolation and meaning and the church and community that embraces and supports these individuals will help them walk through the pain and become stronger and more faithful because of it.

Roger Rollins

Executive Director

Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc.