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Religious Resources or Differential Returns? Early Religious Socialization and Declining Attendance in Emerging Adulthood

Brandon Vaidyanathan

The transition from adolescence into emerging adulthood is usually accompanied by a decline in religious participation. This article examines why such decline occurs at different rates across major Christian traditions and whether this variation can be explained by early socialization factors. Using data from waves 1 and 3 of the National Study of Youth and Religion (N = 1,879), I examine the effects of parental religiosity, church support, religious education, and youth group involvement on the decline in attendance five years later. Results show that these socialization processes adequately explain why attendance declines at different rates across religious traditions. However, these socialization factors do not have the same effect across traditions and often yield differential returns for attendance outcomes. These findings also suggest that comparisons across religious traditions can resolve the “channeling hypothesis” debate about whether parental influence on an offspring's future religiosity is primarily direct or indirect.

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