Journal Articles

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A Multidimensional Model of Religiosity from Adolescence through the Transition to Adulthood

While many multidimensional models of religiosity have been proposed over the years across a range of samples, nearly all are cross-sectional; this prohibits the assessment of model change or stability over time, particularly with regard to developmental changes at critical junctures in the life course. Recently, a longitudinal, five-dimensional model of religiosity during adolescence was proposed and validated, making significant progress in this regard. This research note now attempts to replicate this model on the young adult sample from the same study. Using data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, results show support for a modified version of this typology over time––one that combines the two dimensions of religious practice and incorporates a number of cross-loadings between dimensions. Importantly, this model fits well across both adolescence and young adulthood, lending strong support for these four dimensions of religiosity, their indicators, and their persistence as valid measures across a decade of developmental change.

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The Sociology of Adolescent Religious and Spiritual Development (with Lisa D. Pearce) 

This article presents an overview of how sociologists study the religious and spiritual development of adolescents, focusing on approaches to data collection, conceptualization of measures, and theoretical framing. With regard to data collection, producing context-rich information from a number of sources, including surveys, interviews, and ethnographies, is foundational for research that aims to present a holistic picture of adolescent spirituality. Having strong concepts and measures is also inherent to recognizing the multifaceted nature of religion and spirituality. With a number of concepts and measures available, sophisticated measurement approaches – such as multidimensional or configurational models – can be employed that capture the range of diversity in how adolescents engage with religion and spirituality. Finally, context-rich data and nuanced measurement tools allow for precise theorizing about the specific factors that influence religious and spiritual development. In this regard, the theoretical contributions of a life course perspective have offered strong support that (1) adolescence is a sensitive time period for development, (2) adolescents’ lives are shaped by links to influential others and social institutions, (3) social locations create diversity in religious and spiritual outcomes, (4) adolescents exercise agency in their spiritual lives, and (5) the context of adolescent spiritual development is bounded by historical time and place.

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Religiosity and Premarital Sexual Behaviors among Adolescents: An Analysis of Functional Form

While numerous studies show a persistent inverse association between religion variables and adolescents’ sexual behaviors, the nature of this relationship is not well understood. Specifically, many previous studies presuppose that the associations between adolescent religiosity and sexual behaviors are linear. However, a number of studies have also identified important nonlinearities of religious influence during adolescence, with highly religious individuals being distinct from their peers. Incorporating this knowledge into a theoretically motivated modeling approach, this article provides a comparative analysis of functional forms describing the relationships between religiosity and adolescent sexual behaviors. Using data from two waves of the National Study of Youth and Religion, a linear functional form is compared with nonlinear alternatives that link multiple religion measures to outcomes of sexual activity. Results show that the majority of these relationships are best defined by nonlinear functional forms, suggesting that the influence of religiosity increases as individuals become more religious.

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The Increasing Diversity and Complexity of Family Structures for Adolescents (with Lisa D. Pearce, Laurie Chassin, and Patrick J. Curran)

The structure of adolescents’ families, and thus parental forms, in the United States, have become more heterogeneous and fluid over the past several decades. These changes are due to increases in never‐married, single parents, divorce, cohabitation, same‐sex parenting, multipartnered fertility, and co‐residence with grandparents. We document current diversity and complexity in adolescents’ families as important context for rethinking future parenting theory and research. We also discuss how understandings of adolescents’ families are somewhat limited by current methods used to measure characteristics of families. We recommend social network and profile‐based methods as alternatives to capturing key dimensions of family structure and processes. Understanding the diversity of households and families in which adolescents are raised can improve theory and research on parenting.

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Super Bowl Babies: Do Counties with Super Bowl Winning Teams See Increases in Births Nine Months Later? (with Anna Rybińska)

Following the claim of a highly publicized National Football League (NFL) commercial, we test whether the Super Bowl provides a positive exogenous shock to fertility in counties of winning teams. Using stadium locations to identify teams’ counties, we analyze the number of births in counties of both winning and losing teams for 10 recent Super Bowls. We also test for state effects and general effects of the NFL playoffs. Overall, our results show no clear pattern of increases in the number of births in winning counties nine months after the Super Bowl. We also do not find that births are affected at the state level or that counties competing in the playoffs are affected. Altogether, these results cast doubt on the NFL’s claim that winning cities experience increases in births nine months after the Super Bowl.

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This paper theorizes and tests a latent variable model of adolescent religiosity in which five dimensions of religiosity are interrelated: religious beliefs, religious exclusivity, external practice, private practice, and religious salience. Research often theorizes overlapping and independent influences of single items or dimensions of religiosity on outcomes such as adolescent sexual behavior, but rarely operationalizes the dimensions in a measurement model accounting for their associations with each other and across time. We use longitudinal structural equation modeling with latent variables to analyze data from two waves of the National Study of Youth and Religion. We test our hypothesized measurement model as compared to four alternate measurement models and find that our proposed model maintains superior fit. We then discuss the associations between the five dimensions of religiosity we measure and how these change over time. Our findings suggest how future research might better operationalize multiple dimensions of religiosity in studies of the influence of religion in adolescence.

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Measuring Five Dimensions of Religiosity Across Adolescence (with Lisa D. Pearce and Jessica A. Pearlman)

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Pornography has become increasingly accessible in the United States, and particularly for younger Americans. While some research considers how pornography use affects the sexual and psychological health of adolescents and emerging adults, sociologists have given little attention to how viewing pornography may shape young Americans’ connection to key social and cultural institutions, like religion. This article examines whether viewing pornography may actually have a secularizing effect, reducing young Americans’ personal religiosity over time. To test for this, we use data from three waves of the National Study of Youth and Religion. Fixed-effects regression models show that more frequent pornography viewing diminishes religious service attendance, importance of religious faith, prayer frequency, and perceived closeness to God, while increasing religious doubts. These effects hold regardless of gender. The effects of viewing pornography on importance of faith, closeness to God, and religious doubts are stronger for teenagers compared to emerging adults. In light of the rapidly growing availability and acceptance of pornography for young Americans, our findings suggest that scholars must consider how increasingly pervasive pornography consumption may shape both the religious lives of young adults and also the future landscape of American religion more broadly.

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Seeing is (Not) Believing: How Viewing Pornography Shapes the Religious Lives of Young Americans (with Samuel L. Perry)