Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations  -     By: Vern L. Bengtson, Norella M. Putney, Susan Harris
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Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations

Oxford University Press / 2013 / Hardcover

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For almost four decades, Bengtson and his colleagues have been conducting the largest study of its kind ever undertaken---3,500 individuals from 350 families. What they found is that a child is more likely to remain in the fold than to leave it, and a critical factor is how strong the child's bond is to his father. 272 pages, hardcover. Oxford University.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 0199948658
ISBN-13: 9780199948659

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Publisher's Description

Winner of the Distinguished Book Award from American Sociology Association Sociology of Religion Section
Winner of the Richard Kalish Best Publication Award from the Gerontological Society of America

Few things are more likely to cause heartache to devout parents than seeing their child leave the faith. And it seems, from media portrayals, that this is happening more and more frequently. But is religious change between generations common? How does religion get passed down from one generation to the next? How do some families succeed in passing on their faith while others do not? Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down across Generations seeks to answer these questions and many more.

For almost four decades, Vern Bengtson and his colleagues have been conducting the largest-ever study of religion and family across generations. Through war and social upheaval, depression and technological revolution, they have followed more than 350 families composed of more than 3,500 individuals whose lives span more than a century--the oldest was born in 1881, the youngest in 1988--to find out how religion is, or is not, passed down from one generation to the next.

What they found may come as a surprise: despite enormous changes in American society, a child is actually more likely to remain within the fold than leave it, and even the nonreligious are more likely to follow their parents' example than to rebel. And while outside forces do play a role, the crucial factor in whether a child keeps the faith is the presence of a strong fatherly bond. Mixing unprecedented data with gripping interviews and sharp analysis, Families and Faith offers a fascinating exploration of what allows a family to pass on its most deeply-held tradition--its faith.

Author Bio


Vern L. Bengtson is the AARP/University Professor of Gerontology and Sociology Emeritus and Research Professor of Social Work at the University of Southern California. He has published sixteen books and over 220 articles. He was elected President of the Gerontological Society of America and has twice been granted a MERIT award from the National Institute on Aging for his 35-year Longitudinal Study of Generations, on which this book is based.

Editorial Reviews


"[T]he authors' research reminds us that family and faith are deeply entwined and that strengthening the bond of one may strengthen the continuity of the other" --Wall Street Journal


"An important contribution to the much discussed phenomenon of intergenerational religious transmission the book manages the rare feat of being both very nuanced in its portrayal and very readable and compelling for a diverse target audience." --Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion


"Bengtson...has used excellent sources as well as research methods in demonstrating the changing relationship between families and their religion over generations... Recommended." --CHOICE


"What if we could study the transmission of faith for four generations spanning 35 years? What would we learn about what practices do (and do not) effectively pass on the faith? In this brilliantly researched study of over 3000 subjects and over 300 multi-generational families, Vern Bengtson turns some of the most widely accepted conventional wisdom about faith transmission on its ear. Written in a warm, engaging style, this book is a must read for parents, grandparents, and leaders who long to see faith faithfully passed on to the coming generations." --Mark DeVries, Founder, Youth Ministry Architects; Associate Pastor for Youth and Their Families, First Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee


"Research on the religious and spiritual lives of American young people and on the transmission of religious faith across generations has grown tremendously in recent years. Families and Faith makes a major and very impressive contribution to our knowledge in these areas, using data across multiple generations to shed light on processes at work over long stretches of time. This is now one of the best books on the market in this general area of study. I highly recommend it." --Christian Smith, author of Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults


"Vern Bengtson's Families and Faith is an important contribution to our understanding of how faith is or isn't transmitted within families across generations. It charts changes and continuities across the various generations over the past century and is full of new insights that challenge many of our taken-for-granted assumptions. An excellent empirical study." --Wade Clark Roof, J.F. Rowny Professor of Religion and Society Emeritus, Research Professor, University of California at Santa Barbara


"As Bengtson puts it, we experience continuity and change. Those two realities - faiths are transmitted but also evolve over time - matter beyond our own homes. Religion and families are two of the most stabilizing forces in society. For that reason alone, this book and Bengtson's findings are worth examining." --William McKenzie, The Weekly Standard


"Those who are curious about intergenerational religious perpetuity may enjoy reading Vern Bengtson's latest book, Families and Faith." --Sociology of Religion


"I devoured this book in two sittings... [I]t certainly is engagingly written, and will doubtless appeal to students and thus make a very good accompaniment to courses on religion... The book addresses, spot on, the most important question about religion that sociologists can be asking. And it pursues the question in a rigorous way." --Contemporary Sociology


"For several decades, Vern Bengtson's research has helped define how family factors influence religiosity across the life course, and in Families and Faith, he and his colleagues go well beyond their previous examinations to give a detailed qualitative and quantitative portrait of the dynamic relationship between family and faith... Overall, Families and Faith is the most important empirical study on religion and family published in several decades. The analyses are solid and clearly presented, and the qualitative data complement the quantitative analyses and make the book an interesting read. It is an essential text for any serious researcher and should be required reading in any graduate course on on religion and family. The clear presentation and mixed methodology make it an excellent text for undergraduate courses on religion or family." --American Journal of Sociology


"Readers would benefitfrom a critical eye on the book's conclusions, beginning with the possibility thattransmitting anything might well be questioned as a lesser goal compared to the higher calling of helping those of each generation construct a faith identity that
connects them with a living God experientially."-- Susanna Steeg, International Journal of Christianity & Education


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