September 2016 – SOCIAL TRENDS – Two widely recognized trends in American society might have something to do with each other. Divorce rates climbed to the highest levels ever in the 1980s, when about half of all marriages ended in divorce. And in the present day, Americans are rapidly becoming less religious. Since 1972, the share of Americans who say they do not adhere to any particular religion has increased from 5 percent of the population to 25 percent.
Could those two trends be related? A new study from the Public Religion Research Institute says yes. The children of divorced parents have grown up to be adults of no religion. People whose parents divorced when they were children are significantly more likely to grow up not to be religious as adults, the study found. Thirty-five percent of the children of divorced parents told pollsters they are now nonreligious, compared with 23 percent of people whose parents were married when they were children.
Other studies on the rise of the “nones” — those who say they have no religion — have focused on millennials’ changing preferences. This study found that 29 percent of adults who were raised religious and left their faith say they left because of their religion’s negative teachings about gay and lesbian people. Nineteen percent say they left because of clergy sexual-abuse scandals. Sixty percent say they simply do not believe what the religion teaches.
“A lot of the narrative around the rise of the nones, or the rise of the non-affiliated, has focused on how there’s changing cultural preferences, that people are choosing to move away from religion,” said Daniel Cox, one of the researchers on the new study. “I think there’s also a structural part of the story that has not gotten as much attention. We wanted to focus on the way millennials were raised, which is different from any previous generation. And part of that is they’re more likely to have grown up with parents who are divorced.”
Cox said his team found that even children of divorced parents who are religious are less religious than their peers. Thirty-one percent of them go to services every week, compared with 43 percent of religious people whose parents were married when they were growing up. Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary who has written a book about the spiritual consequences of divorce for children, was not surprised to hear about the study’s findings. –Washington Post