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Adolescent religious development and commitment: A structural equation model of the

role of...
BELIEF & doubt; FAITH development
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Jun92, Vol. 31 Issue 2, p131, 22p, 4 charts, 3
Erickson, Joseph A.
Presents a study which proposes and tests a conceptual model of adolescent religious
belief and commitment which was informed by advances in measurement theory and
scale construction. Review of related literature; Method of study; Implications of the
new model and additional research strategies.
Academic Search Elite


This investigation proposes and tests a conceptual model of adolescent religious belief and
commitment which was informed by recent advances in measurement theory and scale
construction. The model is a partial conceptual replication of Cornwall's 1988 study of
Mormon adult religious development. The model was examined by looking at the linear
structural relations from the matrix of relations in a large survey of adolescent religious
attitudes and behavior conducted in late 1988 and early 1989. The proposed model was
specified, modified, and re-specified. The final fit of the model to the data was quite good,
especially when one considers that the survey used for this study was originally prepared for
another purpose. Finally, the implications of this new model and additional research strategies
and questions are suggested.
During the past several decades, many investigators have noted the crucial place of religion in the
social networks of young people (e.g., Bealer and Willets 1967; Elkind 1971; Havighurst and Keating
1971; McCandless and Evans 1973; Potvin et al. 1976; Nelsen et al. 1977; Santrock 1981; Lloyd
1985; Benson et al. 1989). These findings continue to challenge the social scientist to explore further
the nature of religiousness and values and their place in healthy adolescent personality development.
The literature indicates that religion has important and pervasive impacts on adolescents and their
development, but many topics and methodologies remain unexplored or under-explored (Benson et al.
A great deal of work has been done in the "problem behavior" areas of adolescence, perhaps to the
exclusion of the humanitarian functions of religion. Research on prejudice, altruism, empathy, and
volunteerism has been largely ignored. Similarly, there have been few efforts to tie adolescent religion
to the larger personality and mental health areas. Neither has extensive work been attempted to tie
religious development to other adolescent development areas such as identity, sexuality, and affiliation
(Benson et al. 1989).
Furthermore, much research continues to employ measurement techniques which are narrow and
constraining (Benson et al. 1989). In research with adolescents, religious variables are often measured
with single indicators, or by scales with scant empirical support. Attempts should be made to tie

adolescent religiousness measures to the more elaborate and dynamic measures developed for adults,
as has been attempted for intrinsic and extrinsic religiousness measures (Gorsuch and Venable 1983).
Thus, many of the theories in religious development remain untested or virtually untestable (i.e., not
falsifiable). As is frequently the case with correlational investigations, this research is far too often
post hoc. In order to enhance the growth of comprehensive adolescent religious development theory,
we need to articulate and apply clear models, then put the models to challenging tests. one
increasingly popular approach to model testing is structural equation modeling, a technique virtually
unheard of in this field. The present investigation was an attempt to address some of the difficulties
highlighted above by proposing a specific theoretical model of religious development and
commitment, and then testing that model with structural equation modeling.
Cornwall's (1988) structural modeling of adult religious development pointed to some new directions
in this research. Her work, which was among the first attempts at structural equation modeling of
religious phenomena, formed a starting point for the models proposed here. Her attempts at modeling
adult religious development in a sample of Mormons yielded modest results, but because of the age
difference in our samples and the somewhat idiosyncratic nature of Mormon religious development,
her model needed to be refined. The present investigation employs an elaboration of Cornwall's model
to describe adolescent religious development.
Cornwall's model presumed an intergenerational learning framework. Cornwall explained that
"religiosity, especially church participation, is a learned behavior. 'one learns his religion from those
around him.... Fundamentalist parents tend to bring up children who share the fundamentalist
tradition; liberal religious views are most often found in those who have been trained to such views' "
(Cornwall 1988:209, quoting Yinger 1970:131).
Starting with Cornwall's model, I developed a model of adolescent religious development which
specifically examines the kinds of socialization most likely to be salient in the lives of young people.
The present study was to some extent a conceptual replication of Cornwall's (1988).
In order to develop the rationale and background for modeling adolescent religiousness, this paper
will first examine the scientific literature in this area Then I will outline my attempts to generate a
model of adolescent religious development based on Cornwall's model. Measurement tools were
derived by analyzing the correlations among items and variables developed recently at Search
Institute to study adolescent religious education. Factor analysis of the variables was also employed to
refine the measurement instruments. Then the model was systematically tested and refined by
structural equation modeling leading to a confirmatory analysis of these data on a separate sample of
adolescents. In this paper, the new model will be evaluated on its goodness-of-fit to the data as well as
its conceptual usefulness. Finally, the implications of this new methodology and model will be
assessed and new research directions suggested.
While much is known today about the religious behavior of young people, little is conclusively known
about the social psychological processes which underlie adolescent religiousness (see Benson et al.
1989 for a review). Severe and persistent problems in this research have hindered its development.
While some of these problems might stem from the general lack of philosophical and methodological
rigor in personality and social psychology (cf. Meehl 1978) they might also spring from many social
scientists' own sensitivity about investigating religion.
Religion might not be seen by some psychologists as an important variable affecting human
development, because most young people spend so little time in formal church and church-related
activities (McCandless and Evans 1973). Furthermore, people are sensitive to inquiries concerning
their religious feelings. Religious leaders are cautious about allowing their congregations to

participate in systematic research, perhaps fearing unkind comparisons. Finally, separating the effects
of religion from related factors, such as socioeconomic status and ethnicity, can be a daunting
analytical task (McCandless and Evans 1973).
Yet few would dispute that religion is an important socializing agent. Any list of major socializing
factors invariably includes religion (e.g., Lloyd 1985; Santrock 1981; McCandless and Evans 1973),
and for good reason. Religion has a potential impact on children in a number of ways: through childrearing practices (e.g., a belief in a malevolent god has been associated with harsh and punitive
parenting practices; Lambert et al. 1959); educational activities; social experiences; inter-group
relations; and quasi-rites of passage (McCandless and Evans 1973).
The role of religion in adolescent development has been a focus of scientific research for decades
(Benson et al. 1989). Based upon their review, Benson et al. (1989) concluded that religion has
important and pervasive impacts on adolescents and their development. Previous reviews of this
literature, published between 1967 and 1977, support this assertion (Bearer and Willets 1967; Elkind
1971; Havighurst and Keating 1971; Nelsen et al. 1977; Potvin et al. 1976). While influences such as
geographic mobility, city size, and sibling structure of families have been investigated as factors in
adolescent religious development, most reviewers identify three major influences on adolescent
religious development: the family, peers, and religious education. These areas are clearly relevant for
religious development, but what is not clear are the substantive relations among these factors. How do
these important socializing factors contribute to greater adolescent religiousness?
One reason for the slow progress in finding answers to these questions is that research on adolescence
and religion has suffered from significant methodological and theoretical deficiencies (Benson et al.
1989). Longitudinal research with specific cohorts is very infrequent, and experimental techniques are
almost completely lacking despite the fact that some religious independent variables could be
manipulated (e.g., kind and extent of religious instruction; Yeats and Asher 1979; Benson et al. 1989).
Much of the previous research on adolescents has focused primarily on "problem behaviors" such as
premature sexual activity, drug use, and delinquency. Religious issues and questions (when included
in these investigations) are often limited to a few cursory demographics. This restricts religious
measurement to responses on a small set of usually superficial indicators. Even when religion has
been a major focus, its measurement is still usually limited exclusively to the quantity of religious
activity, rather than exploring multidimensional indicators of the meaning and impact of religiousness
in young people's lives (Benson et al. 1989).
The present study attempts to attack several of these problems simultaneously. The scales and indices
developed for this study were not only informed by recent advances in scale validation, but were also
derived with a particular path model in mind. That model (Adolescent Religious Belief and
Commitment) is laid out in the following section. This investigation, a re-analysis of data from an
earlier study conducted in 1988-89 by Search Institute, focuses on the three critical social influencers
in young people's religious development: parents, peers, and religious education. It is an attempt to
model the powerful normative impact of peers and family and the important cognitive formation
engendered by religious education. Education is given a central place in this model. Familial influence
is hypothesized to act indirectly through an adolescent's religious education experience. The unique
synthesis of these factors is proposed in the form of a structural model-one that can be explicitly
In 1988, Search Institute began a large study of Christian education in mainline American Protestant
churches. This national project was sponsored by six denominations (Christian Church-Disciples of
Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church-U.S.A., Southern Baptist

Convention, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church) and funded by the Eli Lilly
Endowment of Indianapolis, Indiana The goal was to collect substantial new information about
Christian education (defined as "programs and events a congregation intentionally offers to teach the
faith to children, teenagers, and adults"; Benson 1988:3) from a large number of "stakeholders"
(young people, adult teachers, parents, directors of religious education, and pastors) in the six
denominations. Activities surveyed included Sunday school, Bible studies, confirmation classes,
retreats, camping, workshops, youth ministry, children and adult choirs, prayer groups, religious
plays, children's sermons, vacation Bible school social service and social action programs, and family
or intergenerational events and programs (Benson 1988).
A survey was developed for each of the five stakeholding groups, with each instrument containing
nearly 400 questions in a number of behavioral and attitudinal domains. The youth instrument had
377 items addressing private religious attitudes and beliefs, behavioral intentions, reported behavior, a
religious biography section, and substantial demographics.
In the fall of 1987, a stratified random sample of all churches in the six denominations yielded a pool
of 900 congregations (150 congregations per denomination). The congregations selected were
stratified to represent four regional categories and four congregational size categories (Benson 1988).
The individual congregations were formally invited to participate in January, 1988, by their
denominational chief executives and by the Search Institute.
Project directors in every congregation were given specific instructions on how to draw a random
sample of the congregation, to include about ten young people, ten adults, ten teachers, the senior
pastor, and the person most responsible for Christian education in that congregation. (In those cases
where the congregation did not have ten youth or ten educators,the project directors were instructed to
give the instrument to all youth and/or teachers.) This selection technique meant that approximately
5,000 young people completed the youth instrument. Data collection occurred between March 1988
and January 1989.
This study examined only those older adolescents (ages 16-18) who had been in their present
congregations for two or more years, yielding a subject pool of approximately 900 young people.
Preliminary data analysis found few substantive denominational effects, so youth from all
denominations were pooled for this study.
Structural Equation Modeling: An overview
One important and increasingly popular tool for exploring the sorts of issues essential to
understanding social processes is structural equation modeling. Structural equation modeling allows
researchers to test the plausibility of their theoretical models and to define and adjust these models for
subsequent investigation. Structural equation modeling is no substitute for theory. The technique
assumes that the investigator understands the subject area with sufficient sophistication to propose
thorough "causal" models interrelating important constructs. At the same time he or she must
understand the measurement tools and their relation to the theoretical constructs. Structural equation
techniques are most appropriately used when one has a theoretical foundation that directs variable
selection and the generation of causal hypotheses (Maruyama 1983).
Recent work in model modification (e.g., Anderson and Gerbing 1988) has continued to refine the
procedures necessary to reduce idiosyncratic results by using chi-square difference procedures.
Several investigators have strongly advocated a two-step approach to model fittings (Bender and
Bonett 1980; Anderson and Gerbing 1988). The first step involves specifying, fitting, and modifying
the model on a random split-half of the sample. Step two confirms the model's fit on the second half

of the subjects. The sample in this study was split into exploratory and confirmatory groups,
permitting application of the two-step procedure.
In the present study, I have translated my model of adolescent religious development (stated below)
into a set of structural equations which were analyzed with LISREL VI. (For a discussion of linear
structural relations, see Joreskog and Sorbom 1978, 1983.) This technique involves the analysis of
two sets of equations: one that defines the conceptual variables in terms of the observed measures
(called the measurement model), and another set of equations that interrelate the theoretical constructs
(called the structural model; see gentler 1980, 1986; Maruyama and McGarvey 1980; Namboodiri et
al. 1975). The approach assumes multivariate normality, which requires large sample sizes (an
assumption almost certainly fulfilled in this data set).
A multidimensional dependent measure called "Mature Faith" was developed for the Search Institute's
survey to determine the extent of each person's religious development. The scale was developed with
the assistance of a "blue ribbon" panel of religious educators and denominational officers. Both the
original 38-item version of the Mature Faith scale and a 29-item version have been demonstrated to be
highly reliable, with reliability estimates of .89-.91 obtained for each of the five stakeholding groups
used in the original study. The reliability estimate was .86 for youths aged 16-18 only.
The original Mature Faith scale's validity also appears to be high. All major predictions about the
scale were confirmed: Pastors scored highest on the scale (X = 5.32), followed by religious education
coordinators (X = 4.89), teachers (X = 4.77), parents (X = 4.66), and young people (X = 4.10). Mature
Faith increased (as predicted) with age of the respondents (age 13-15, X = 4.1 . . . age 70+, X = 4.9).
The correlation between pastors' and denominational executives' ratings of a total of 123 persons in
mature faith was .61 on a 1-10 scale, based on previous knowledge of each person's level of faith
maturity (Benson, 1988).
Mature Faith has also been shown (by Benson 1988) to be moderately to strongly correlated with a
number of other religiousness measures: intrinsic religion (.58; but it was uncorrelated with extrinsic
religion, based on a 1987 field study with 102 adults, with Feagin's 11-item index of intrinsic and
extrinsic faith); self-reported importance of religion (.57); frequency of prayer (.47); frequency of
reading religious literature other than the Bible (.47); a four-item Good Samaritan index (.65); a
measure of support for racial equality (.48); and frequency of social justice behaviors (.34). Donahue
(1988) has also reported that the Mature Faith scale is stable across the teen years. Changes that do
occur in Mature Faith must occur over longer periods of time than just the brief teenage years.
In the present study, analyses of the original 38-item Mature Faith scale were conducted to determine
the most efficient and conceptually viable measure of religious belief and commitment. A principal
components factor analysis revealed 16 items from the original 38 which loaded heavily (.50 or
above) on the first unrotated factor. A later factor analysis on these 16 items alone showed a clear
single factor solution (eigen-value 1 = 7.21, with 45% of variance explained; eigenvalue 2 = 0.99,
with 6% of variance explained). These 16 items (see Table 1) focus primarily on traditional religious
themes: e.g., "My faith helps me know right from wrong," "I read and study the Bible," and "I like to
worship and pray with others." A reliability check on this 16-item Religious Belief and Commitment
Scale revealed a high Cronbach alpha (.83 for youth aged 16-18).
A correlational analysis of the 16 items in the Religious Belief and Commitment Scale and the two
Religious Worship Behavior items revealed consistently moderate to strong intercorrelations among
each scale's items with smaller correlations between scales (i.e., the belief items did not correlate as
highly with the behavior items as they did with the other belief items).

This analysis supports the extraction of the two behavioral items as a unique variable. of course, it
would be preferable to have many more behavioral items, but this was one of the unfortunate
limitations of this data set. Most of the behavioral items were not differentiated from the attitudinal
items (they formed a common factor); therefore they could not be used to comprise a unique variable
in this model.
Development of the Conceptual Model and its Operationalization
The proposed conceptual model attempts to look at three major influences on adolescent
religiousness: the parents/family, religious education, and peer group. A diagram of this model is
found in Figure 1.
Parental and Family Factors. Several ways that parents influence their children's religious
development are included in this model. First, I expected a consistent religious message from parents
to be important. Hoge et al. (1982) and Dudley and Dudley (1986) have explored this issue and found
parental consistency to be an important factor in religious value transmissions. The variable in the
model which addresses this construct is "Parents' Religious Influence," four items which indicate the
degree and to some extent the salience of the religious impact of mother and father. The first item for
each parent was: "overall, how religious would you say your mother (or stepmother or female
guardian) is?" and "overall, how religious would you say your father (or stepfather or male guardian)
is?" These two items were rated by each young person as "not at all religious," "somewhat religious,"
or "very religious." The other item in this scale asked subjects to pick from a list of 28 items the five
most positive influences on their religious faith (among this list is "my mother" and "my father"). The
score for parental religiousness was included only if that parent was rated as one of the top five most
positive religious influencers, leading to an overall scale score which indicates both strength of
commitment and religious influence of parents as perceived by subject.
The second parental influence is the young person's report of Parents' Religious Activity. The items in
this scale ask respondents to indicate how often they saw their mothers (or fathers) go to church, pray,
or do "other religious things" during three time periods: when they were children (ages 5-12), during
early adolescence (13-15), and later adolescence (16-18). Respondents chose from three response
options: "never or rarely," "sometimes," or "often."
The third familial influence is Adolescent's Home Religious Behavior, an index of public and private
religious behaviors in the home. Items in this scale include: frequency of prayer, Bible reading, other
religious reading, and family devotions. Since to a large extent these activities are under the direct
control of the parents, they should be closely related to parental religiousness.
These first three constructs taken together constitute the familial influences on adolescent
religiousness. These familial influences are presumed to be the foundation of the adolescent's
religious commitment, creating the innate readiness (or lack of readiness) for additional religious
The model presumes that the parental variables are not caused by any other variables in the model, but
that they do covary, as indicated by the two-headed arrow linking the latent variables for Parents'
Religious Influence and Parents' Religious Activity. The decision to allow these constructs to covary
is a prediction about the nature and interaction of these variables; the prediction is based on the
expectation of covariation between these variables, even though the theory would not predict "causal"
links between these constructs.
The two parental factors can exert substantial influence over the types of religious behavior the
adolescent is likely to exhibit in the home. Indeed, the young person might participate in meal
prayers, go to Sunday services, and engage in other devotional behavior without any personal

religious faith. This is why the model specifies such a strong link between the parental variables and
the adolescent's home religious behavior.
Religious Education. The second domain of influence is formal religious instruction. Measurement
tools for this variable (called Adolescent's Religious Education) combine the amount of religious
education activity the young person engages in and has previously engaged in during childhood. Also
included is a self-report of the amount of knowledge the young person believes s/he has gained from
the religious instruction, which undoubtedly will be higher for those youth with high motivation in
this area, as well as for youths enrolled in high quality religious instruction programs.
Several analyses of the respondents' perceptions of their religious education programs attempted to
determine if the youths were describing their religious education similarly. Twelve items which
measured respondents' perceptions of their religious education programs were common to all five
stakeholding groups. These items were correlated at the congregational level. An analysis of these
"common core" means showed a high degree of consistency. A factor analysis of the same twelve
common core religious education items revealed nearly identical two-factor solutions for all five
stakeholding groupings. These findings, along with those mentioned above, argue strongly that the
respondents' perceptions within each congregation are highly similar. Therefore, we can assume that
the youths' descriptions of their religious education experiences are reasonably faithful.
Religious education is central to this model. Almost all of the paths in this model pass through
education, because this is the point where children begin to think about their own religious beliefs and
commitments and to make some decisions about what they want in their own lives. If one has a
positive religious experience at home, religious education can help to integrate one's familial
worldview with that of the larger religious community. If the child is lacking a religious household,
religious education can potentially remediate the deficit. of course, poor religious education can also
alienate an adolescent, especially if the education is perceived as rote or shallow.
Peer Influence. Peer influence is measured by a scale called Peer Activity Level in Church which
looks at the degree that adolescents are enmeshed in a peer group of church youth, and at the young
person's perception of the influence these peers have over his or her own life. This scale includes
items regarding the young person's participation in leading church programs, classes, or events, a
rating of how religious his or her best friends are, and whether these friends are a "most positive
influence" on the respondent's religious faith.
Peers exert several forms of social influence in the religious domain. First, peers communicate the
sub-group norms regarding the appropriateness of a religious faith. obviously when a young person
believes his or her friends are supportive of practicing a religious faith, he or she is at the very least
free to engage in religious behavior without stigma. Second, peers model appropriate behavior,
communicating not just the norms of the group, but teaching how to engage in the behavior itself.
Third, when adolescents engage each other in discussions of important issues, religious issues and
worldviews will be part of that discussion if peers have a religious faith. Finally, young people might
be dependent on religious institutions for their social life (especially in parochial schools and some
small towns). Dance, mixers, ski trips, etc., might be offered by church youth groups are an
inducements to get adolescents involved in church activities. If other social activities are limited,
social involvement with religious youth could be an adolescent's primary social outlet.
Once again the model specifies some relations between variables without indicating a causal link. By
allowing the errors in the measurement tools for peer influence and religious education (as well as
peer influence and home religious behavior) to covary, the model takes into account the degree of
expected covariation between these two constructs, even though "causal" links are not specified
between them.

Dependent Measures. These five constructs (three familial/parental, one educational, and one peer
group variable) lead to two outcome variables: 1) Religious Belief and Commitment and 2) Religious
Worship Behavior. outcomes are separated into two parts to permit closer monitoring of the
differential impact religious socialization has on beliefs, on the one hand, and on behaviors, on the
other. The two outcome variables, respectively, are made up of items from the Religious Belief and
Commitment Scale, discussed above, and of two others from a separate religious behavior section:
"How often do you attend worship services at your church?" and "How many hours do you spend at
church in an average week?"
Relations Among the Constructs
Causation flows from left to right across the path diagram. Parental and familial influence are a given
in a third's life; they lay the foundation for all additional training. Religious education and peer
influence are more proximal causes. They are presumably under the adolescent's control, at least to a
greater extent than are the familial factors. If the peer network is supportive, and the religious
education effective, the result will be more substantial religious commitment and greater attendance at
religious activities. The goal of this investigation was to explore which of the links are actually salient
in predicating greater amounts of religious commitment. The path arrows in Figure 1 are essentially
predictions: They are the patterns of expected relations for these latent variables.
Model Fitting and Modification
With a sample of this size, a split-half procedure can be employed for model fitting, according to the
suggestions made by gentler and Bonett (1980) and Anderson and Gerbing (1988). This was
accomplished by randomly selecting half of the subjects for initial analysis and holding the second
half of the subjects back for a second round of confirmatory model fitting. This allowed a
modification of the hypothesized model to improve the fit on the first sample, then a test of the
modified model with the confirmatory sample.
Initial Results and Modifications. Initial analyses of the two exploratory groups (girls-group one, and
boys-group one) indicated moderate fit but suggested several modifications of the a priori model The
original model advanced a number of paths from the parental activity and influence variables. (See
Figure 1 for path diagram; for coefficients of the measurement model and standard errors, see Table
2.) These paths were not supported in the data. As a result, most of the direct paths between the
parental variables and the dependent measures were dropped. After inspection of the residuals and the
LISREL modification indices (see Joreskog and Sorbom 1983), several additional paths were added
between the intermediate variables (religious education, home religious behavior, peer activity) and
the dependent variables. These paths reflect a stronger relation between these variables and adolescent
religiousness. While religious education and peer influence are somewhat removed from the parental
variables, it should be emphasized that most of these activities (education, home behavior, and
friendship contacts) are monitored and to some extent controlled by parents, so parental influence
might not be as weak as suggested by the dropped paths.
A look at the zero-order correlations among the latent variables obtained from the LISREL analyses of
the just-identified structural model (Table 3) backs up the suggestions from the LISREL modification
indices. These matrices show a pattern of relations among the latent variables which are in the centerto-right side of the path diagram (primarily Adolescent's Home Religious Behavior, Adolescent's
Religious Education, and Religious Belief and Commitment), and much weaker relations among most
of the other variables. There are especially strong relations between education, home religious
behavior and the dependent measures.

Respecification and Final Modifications. The final solutions are more parsimonious than the initial
solutions. Each of the initial solutions had 13 paths; the final boys' solution has only 7 remaining, and
the girls' has 10. The final solutions were retested with the cross-validation sample. The crossvalidation analyses confirmed the models generated from the initial samples.
The complete final solutions, with the standardized path estimates and measurement model, are found
in Figures 2 and 3. The major difference between the boys' and girls' solutions is in the absence of
direct paths from Parents' Religious Influence for the boys. While this might indicate a smaller impact
of parents' religiousness on boys, it could also reveal defects in this measure of Parents' Religious
Influence for boys, and to some extent for girls as well. These sorts of problems are not uncommon
with secondary analyses; many of the items were not written with the same intentions I had when I
employed them.
If we look first at the common elements in the solutions for both boys and girls, we can see that
several paths are significant. (The paths pictured in Figures 2 and 3 are from the standardized
solution.) The paths with the most substantial loadings are Beta21, Beat41, and Beta52.
The path labeled Beta21 implies a relation between Adolescent's Home Religious Behavior and
attendance at, and learning from, religious education (Adolescent's Religious Education). This relation
is an important link between adolescents' private behavior and their communal religious education. It
also shows the importance of the child's habituation of religious rituals. While these are quite often
rote, it is possible that with proper education they become meaningful personal rituals, indicative of
personal religious commitment.
It's also important to note that Adolescent's Home Religious Behavior has a significant path to
Religious Belief and Commitment (Beta41), but that Adolescent's Religious Education has only a
weak relation (Beta42, female model), or in the boys' case, no relation, to Religious Belief and
Commitment. Adolescent's Home Religious Behavior carries most of the influence on personal belief
and commitment. Once again, this demonstrates the substantial impact of the child's religious habits at
home, and the internalization that such might engender.
Adolescent's Religious Education is a strong predictor of Religious Worship Behavior (Beta52). This
is probably due to the overlap between religious education and Sunday worship, i.e., the Sunday
School. To some extent the indicators for these two variables might be measuring the same thing, but
since many adolescents are no longer compelled to attend religious education after confirmation or a
similar graduation from religious education (usually completed between the ages of 14 and 16), there
could be more going on here. Perhaps the habit of going to the church building and meeting friends
developed in regular religious education carries over after the mandatory education stops.
As mentioned above, all paths between Parents' Religious Influence and the other variables were
dropped in the boys' model. However, in the girls' model, Parents' Religious Influence has some
positive influence on Adolescent's Home Religious Behavior as well as a negative relation to
Religious Belief and Commitment. Whether this is indicative of a substantive difference between boys
and girls is hard to say. Perhaps girls are more likely to view their religious faith in light of their
parents' influence, and boys less so, but the differences are probably quite small, given the small path
Overall, the models suggest that adolescent religious development is triggered by home religious
habits and religious education, while the influence of both parents and peers is less important then
previously suggested. For additional discussion of the implications of the models, see the following
Assessment of Model Fit. The fit of each model was assessed via a normed fit index suggested by
gentler and Bonett (1980). This special fit index was necessary because the "goodness of fit" index

employed by LISREL is not a realistic test of fit. It is a direct function of sample size and lacks a solid
reference point (Marsh et al. 1988). The normed fit index is obtained by running several additional
analyses on the data. First a null model is obtained by specifying each indicator as a separate factor
and then fixing certain matrices in the data run to pre-specified patterns (Anderson and Gerbing
1988). The null model is a model of worst fit This lower bound is complemented by an hypothesized
upper bound, obtained through the calculation of the just-identified structural model (also called the
measurement model). This analysis is performed by removing all degrees of freedom associated with
the structural model and obtaining a measure of how much variability in the data remains
unexplained. With these upper and lower bounds established, we can assess how the conceptual model
fits the data.
Using the gentler and Bonett normed fit index, I found that these proposed models capture almost all
of the variability one can hope to account for with these latent variables (.926 of .950 for females
and .880 of .896 for males).
The confirmatory solutions were identical in configuration to the final solutions obtained with the
exploratory groups. Since the model was sufficiently modified in the exploratory group, no additional
modification was necessary (or appropriate) in the confirmatory groups. In other words, the models
obtained by specifying, modifying, and re-specifying with the exploratory samples were essentially
confirmed. The fit obtained in the confirmatory groups could not be enhanced significantly by
changing any of the paths established during the exploratory group modeling.
Almost all of the paths obtained on the confirmatory sample were quite similar to those obtained in
the final solutions with the exploratory sample (see Table 4). The one obvious exception was the path
in the female sample from Parents' Religious Influence to Religious Belief and Commitment, which
dropped from .515 (significant at the .05 level) in the final exploratory solution to .133 (nonsignificant) in the confirmatory solution. This path might be problematic: Since most of the paths
between the parental variables and the dependent variables were dropped in both groups, it might be
the case that the original path was capitalizing on an idiosyncrasy in the exploratory sample. other
than this path, all the rest of the paths were essentially confirmed in the cross-validation sample.
This investigation attempted to introduce a new methodological tool to the study of adolescent
religiousness. It proposed and tested a model of adolescent religiousness that was informed by a
thorough review of the literature, and was conceptually unified. It also employed measurement
techniques that are relatively new to this area To a substantial degree, the goals set for this
investigation were met. The fit of the proposed conceptual model to the data was quite good,
especially when one considers that the survey used for this study was originally prepared for another
purpose. overall this investigation has lent additional support for the kind of model proposed by
Cornwall (1988).
Of course, this sample wee skewed towards a group of religiously involved young people, and it is not
dear whether the same or similar processes would be at work with less conventional religiousness, or
in families which are predominantly or exclusively secular. Perhaps the data collected on religious
samples has a restricted range compared with other samples, which might suggest the continued use
of covariance analysis over other analytic techniques. obviously more work needs to be done with
other religious sects, other racial and ethnic groups, and with the substantial portion of the population
which is only nominally religious.
Also, the nature and content of the religious instruction adolescents received was not addressed
directly in this study, but since the religious education variable had such strong relations with the
other variables, it will be important in future investigations.

So what are the broader implications of this study? First, while there is no question that parents, peers,
and religious education all play a part in adolescent religiousness, the nature of their interaction
remains a complicated issue. This study gives some dues regarding this question. Direct parental
religious activity doesn't appear to be a particularly strong influence during the adolescent years. In
this study, the correlations between Parents' Religious Influence and the other latent variables were
small, between -.002 and -.285. The correlations for Parents' Level of Religious Activity were
somewhat higher, ranging from .019 and .466 (see Table 3). These were generally consistent with
other investigators' findings (e.g., Cornwall 1988, Benson et al. 1989, and Ozorak 1989, but see also
contrary findings in Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi 1975). The lack of direct paths from the parental
variables to the dependent variables confirms this notion.
Other observers have noticed some inconsistency of parental influence during the adolescent years
(e.g., Hoge et al. 1982). Cornwall (1988) found that for her Mormon sample, family variables did not
directly influence adult religiousness, but rather were important influences on intervening variables
such as church attendance and integration into a Mormon peer network.
There is evidence from these data that parents direct their children to other social influencers, and it is
these influencers which are more salient. of particular interest is the strength of the religious education
variable. It appears to be very strong, much stronger than previous research might have indicated. of
course, children who are interested in religion attend religious education, but since much of the
religious education in this sample is "mandatory" (at least, parent-mandated) it is important to note
that this education is having a powerful socializing impact. To what extent religious education is
promoting intellectual development is impossible to say at this point, but religious education is a
much stronger factor than previously supposed.
It is also clear from this study that home religious behavior is vitally important. Young people who
pray, study the Bible, help the poor, think about religious issues, etc., are professing strong personal
religious beliefs, despite the fact that much of this home-bound behavior is almost certainly under the
direction of parents.
Cornwall (1988) has called the indirect social influence parents have over their children
"channelling." She uses this term to describe the kind of subtle influence parents have regarding when
their children socialize, where they spend their free time, and what sorts of models they are exposed
Another way to understand this indirect influence is to look at how parents communicate a worldview
to their children. Cornwall (1988) calls this "construction of meaning." By giving their children the
cognitive structures to understand and cope with the world, parents influence their children to find
social structures which are compatible with their own cognitive schemes. Perhaps even when children
rebel, it is within the framework of their parent-given cognitive structure. It is this way, rather than via
coercion, that parents direct their children into compatible, if not identical, social patterns to their
At the same time, many limitations need to be addressed. Most of these limitations come from the fact
that these data were collected with a different purpose in mind, and so did not generally address the
same methodological issues as the present study. Where the interests and focus of this study
dovetailed with Search Institute's (for example, in the development of the multi-faceted dependent
measure of religious development), the measurement tools worked extremely well. In other places,
such as the attempts to measure parental involvement, results were mixed.
In consideration of these limitations, future investigations need to address the concerns outlined here
and discussed fully by Benson et al. (1989). Most importantly, future measurement instruments need
to be written with a specific model in mind, as was attempted in this investigation. A priori measures
of parental influence and peer influence need to be developed to capture more strongly these

conceptual variables. Assessments of validity and reliability are more powerful and direct if they are
planned before the instrument is written.
Despite these limitations, this study supports the notion that structural equation modeling is well
suited to this kind of survey research. There are vast untapped sources of data in the area of adolescent
religiousness which are very likely to yield meaningful findings if researchers in this field become
familiar with this powerful new methodology.
The findings in this study might also point to a major difference and advantage of covariance analysis
over the correlational approach. While many of the variables investigated here might correlate to a
high degree in many studies land not in others), a covariance analysis could reveal much more about
the nature of the relations than would correlation. This might be especially true when many of the
indicators are intercorrelated. Structural equation modeling offers a strategy to analyze and evaluate
simultaneously the complex theories in an integrated manner not found with most other data analysis
If the conceptual model is accurate, the implication for parents seems obvious: Model your
religiousness at home; dearly and firmly direct your children into activities which ensure socialization
into a similar worldview. This should include formal and structured religious education activities. The
commitment made by educated adolescents appears to be strong, so this education-socialization
should not be underestimated.
A great deal remains to be investigated. For example, more study needs to be done into the ways
parents interact with their children's religious faith. Information regarding the content and quality of
parental faith messages needs to be collected, as well as some measure of the child's interpretation of
these messages.
The amount of religious and intellectual development attained by children in religious education also
needs to be studied. To what extent is this development the same as moral development? Does a
religious education enhance intellectual development? In what ways? What sorts of religious
education dampen intellectual development? To what extent are different pedagogical techniques
relevant for different religious development outcomes? Do the more active learning structures such as
"cooperative learning" have a place in the religious education curriculum? These and many other
issues are beyond the focus of this present paper but need to be addressed in order to understand fully
the importance of religious education.
Researchers also need to study the adolescent's peer network, to understand better how friends
influence religious development, and whether their influence brings about mere compliance or deeper
internalization of religious values. It is likely that peers are important factors in influencing adolescent
religiousness, especially religious education and worship attendance. However, their importance
might be hidden behind the overwhelming influence of religious education (which is also a
social/friendship setting). How many religious friends are necessary to have a "critical mass" of
religious peer influence? Is it important that these friends be people one admires (referents), or can
they be comrades or even intimates? What about the impact of having a religious boyfriend or
Potential ties to other peer socialization, such as the influence of peers on drug use and premature
sexual activity, as well as the more complex forces at work in school achievement and desegregation,
should also be explored. once again, these are issues which go beyond the scope of the present
investigation but should be addressed in the future to understand fully the nature of adolescent
religious development.


Item number and text

item 87

My faith shapes how I think

and act every day.


item 88

I help others with their

religious questions and


item 91

My faith helps me know right

from wrong.


item 93

I devote to reading and

studying the Bible.


item 95

Every day I see evidence

that God is active in the


item 98

I seek out opportunities to

help me grow spiritually.


item 99

I take time for periods of

prayer or meditation.


item 107

I feel God's presence in my

relationships with other


item 108

My life is filled with

meaning and purpose.


item 113

I try to apply my faith to

political and social issues.


item 114

My life is committed to
Jesus Christ.


item 117

I go out of my way to show

love to people I meet.


item 118

I have a real sense that God

is guiding me.


item 120

I like to worship and pray

with others.


item 121

I think Christians must be

about the business of
creating international
understanding and harmony.


item 122

I am spiritually moved by the

beauty of God's creation.

Latent Variable [arrow right]
Measurement Tool
Parents' Religious Influence [arrow right] PRI-X1
Parents' Level of Religious Activity [arrow right]
Adolescent's Home Rel. Behav.[arrow right] AHRB-Y1
Adolescent's Religious Education [arrow right] ARE-Y3
Peer Activity Level in Church [arrow right] FPEER-Y6
Religious Belief & Commitment [arrow right] RBC-Y7
Religious Worship Behavior [arrow right] RWB-Y11
Latent Variable [arrow right]
Measurement Tool


Standard Error

Parents' Religious Influence [arrow right] PRI-X1
Parents' Level of Religious Activity [arrow right]
Adolescent's Home Rel. Behav.[arrow right] AHRB-Y1
Adolescent's Religious Education [arrow right] ARE-Y3
Peer Activity Level in Church [arrow right] FPEER-Y6
Religious Belief & Commitment [arrow right] RBC-Y7
Religious Worship Behavior [arrow right] RWB-Y11
Latent Variable [arrow right]
Measurement Tool


Parents' Religious Influence [arrow right] PRI-X1
Parents' Level of Religious Activity [arrow right]
Adolescent's Home Rel. Behav.[arrow right] AHRB-Y1
Adolescent's Religious Education [arrow right] ARE-Y3


Peer Activity Level in Church [arrow right] FPEER-Y6
Religious Belief & Commitment [arrow right] RBC-Y7
Religious Worship Behavior [arrow right] RWB-Y11
Latent Variable [arrow right]
Measurement Tool


Standard Error

Parents' Religious Influence [arrow right] PRI-X1
Parents' Level of Religious Activity [arrow right]
Adolescent's Home Rel. Behav.[arrow right] AHRB-Y1
Adolescent's Religious Education [arrow right] ARE-Y3
Peer Activity Level in Church [arrow right] FPEER-Y6
Religious Belief & Commitment [arrow right] RBC-Y7
Religious Worship Behavior [arrow right] RWB-Y11
Parents' Level of Relig. Activity
Parents' Religious Influence
Adol. Home Relig. Behavior
Adol. Religious Education
Peer Activity in Church
Religious Belief & Commitment
Religious Worship Behavior










Parents' Level of Relig. Activity
Parents' Religious Influence
Adol. Home Relig. Behavior
Adol. Religious Education
Peer Activity in Church
Religious Belief & Commitment
Religious Worship Behavior








Parents' Level of Relig. Activity
Parents' Religious Influence
Adol. Home Relig. Behavior
Adol. Religious Education
Peer Activity in Church
Religious Belief & Commitment
Religious Worship Behavior









Parents' Level of Relig. Activity
Parents' Religious Influence
Adol. Home Relig. Behavior
Adol. Religious Education
Peer Activity in Church
Religious Belief & Commitment
Religious Worship Behavior
(non-standardized solution)

- 1.- 2.- 3.- 4.- 5.- 6.- 7.- 8.- 9.-10.-11.-12.-13.-14.-15.-16.-17.-18.-19.-20.-








Adol Home Rel Behav

Adol Relig Educ
Peer Activ Level in Church
Relig Belief & Commitment
Relig Worship Behav
Adol Home Rol Behav
Adol Relig Educ
Peer Activ Level in Church
Relig Belief & Commitment
Relig Worship Behav
Adol Relig Educ
Peer Activ Level in Church
Relig Belief & Commitment
Relig Worship Behav
Peer Activ Level in Church
Relig Belief & Commitment
Relig Worship Behav
Relig Belief & Commitment
Relig Worship Behav
Relig Worship Behav



Parents' Religious Influence A

---Parents' Level of Religious Activity F
---Adolescents' Home Religious Behavior
---Adolescents' Religious Education O
---Peer Activity Level in Church R
---Religious Belief & Commitment T



Parents' Religious Influence A

---Parents' Level of Religious Activity F
---Adolescents' Home Religious Behavior
---Adolescents' Religious Education O
---Peer Activity Level in Church R



















Religious Belief & Commitment T




*-sign. at a = .05 ---- = paths not estimated

+Gl = Group 1 - Exploratory sample; G2 = Group 2 - Confirmatory sample
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COMMITMENT. Subjects: 16-18 year old who have been at this church for 2 or more years, males
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COMMITMENT. Subject: 16-18 year old who have been at this church for 2 or more years, males
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*This study was conducted as part of the authors doctoral research at the University of
Minnesota, Department of Educational Psychology. This project was PartiallY Supported by
Academic Computing Services and Systems of the University of Minnesota. The author
would like to thank Geoffrey M. Maruyama, Professor of Educational Psychology at the
University of Minnesota, and Peter L. Benson and Michael J. Donahue of Search Institute, for
their technical and scholarly advice and assistance throughout this project.
+ Joseph A. Erickson is Assistant Professor of Education at Augsburg College, 731-21st Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55454-1396 (INTERNET.-erickson @
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