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Social and Cognitive Influences on the Development of Religious Beliefs and Commitment in Adolescence

Elizabeth Weiss Ozorak
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 28, No. 4 (Dec., 1989), pp. 448-463
DOI: 10.2307/1386576
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1386576
Page Count: 16
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Social and Cognitive Influences on the Development of Religious Beliefs and Commitment in Adolescence
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Abstract

It has been proposed that adolescents are likely to change or maintain, expand or abandon their religious beliefs and practices because of pressure from parents or peers, because of cognitive development, or because of existential anxiety. This study proposes a social-cognitive model of change based on the concepts of anchoring and polarization. The sample consisted of 390 early, middle, and late adolescents who filled out a questionnaire assessing family demographics, religious background, beliefs, practices, and experience, existential questioning, and closeness to family and peers. Parents' religious affiliation and practices were positively related to all aspects of religiousness among early and middle adolescents, but only to practices and to decreased likelihood of change in the college-age group. Family closeness was also negatively associated with change. There was some evidence of peer influence on religious doubt and changes of faith. Existential concerns and SAT scores were positively related to change in older subjects only, but existential questioning seemed more likely to accompany change than to cause it.

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