Don't Tell Me What to Believe

by mmcda1 on April 14, 2014 - 11:57pm

Many families today choose to structure their values around religion. Parents set rules for their children that align with what they hold true about a higher power. But what happens when the child’s beliefs don’t match up with what the parents want them to believe? Charles Stokes and Mark Regnerus conduct research to determine whether religious differences between children and their parents have a negative effect on their relationship. Their research is documented in the article When faith divides family: Religious discord and adolescent reports of parent-child relations. There are three different dimensions of religion that are considered in this study. They are religious importance, attendance and affiliation. The assumption is that when there is religious discord between parent and child then the quality of their relationship is very low. They also test to see if religious importance has a higher impact on parent-child relationship than does affiliation or attendance and additionally, if when the child reports more religious importance than the parent, then the quality of relationship between parent and child is much higher. Samples for this study were taken from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This study included children in grades 7-12 from a total of 80 different high schools in different geographical locations. The total number of adolescents surveyed was 13,303. The survey had students evaluate their relationship with their parents by asking things such as how close they were to each parent and how satisfied they were with the relationship. At the conclusion of the study some major findings surfaced. Most importantly they found that higher religious discord did in fact correlate with lower quality relationships between parents and children. However, the amount of adolescents who found religion to be less important than their parents did was much less common than anticipated at only 11% of students surveyed. On the contrary, when children hold religious importance higher than their parents do, then the relationship between them is stronger. Stokes and Regnerus suggest this may be because most religions put some sort of emphasis on obedience to parents. I think future research should be done to see why children’s higher level of religious importance impacts the parent child relationship much more positively.


            The findings of the research done by Charles Stokes and Mark Regnerus could be interpreted in multiple ways. In their article they suggest that parents are frustrated with their children who do not value religion as highly has they do. When someone is trying to raise their child on specific values according to a religion they believe in, opposition to those beliefs can cause a major rift in that relationship. I have had firsthand experience with this as my mother is extremely religious. I was raised going to church every Sunday, saying my prayers at night and having family devotion time. I began to stray away from what my mother wanted me to believe during my high school years. This caused our relationship to deteriorate. We would constantly fight over things such as dating or going to dances. I think the restrictive requirements associated with religion makes it hard for adolescents to fit in which is why they rebel against their parents beliefs. However, Stokes and Regnerus also propose that children who have better relationships with their parents to begin with are less likely to drop their religious affiliations at an older age. I think it is interesting that they found children who hold religious importance higher than their parents have shown a higher quality relationship. Even though most religions emphasize parental obedience it has been my experience that when a child holds religion higher than their parent does it causes the child to become frustrated with the parent resulting in a strained relationship. My mother, for example, has a strained relationship with her mother because of religious discord. Her mother wants nothing to do with my mother’s religion and this hurts my mom deeply. Stokes and Regnerus (2009) note in their conclusion “religious discord can be extremely detrimental to parent-child relationships, as one party dismisses concepts that remain elemental-or even sacred-to the other” (p. 167). It is my opinion that the effects religious discord has on parent-child relationships depends completely on the familial situation but as the research suggests, when there is discord there is also strain on the parent-child relationship to some degree.



Stokes, C. E., & Regnerus, M. D. (2009). When faith divides family: Religious discord and adolescent reports of parent–child relations. Social Science Research38(1), 155-167.



This post drew me in because I have the same problems, with reservations, with my family. I liked how you pointed out how it can affect families, but I think you should entertain the other side as well. In many cases, different religious views between children and parents have no effect on their relationships. As you point out in your argument, many family relationships are tattered by this religious difference, which is true in many cases as well. In my perspective, religious differences have no effect on family relationships. My family is predominantly Christian, while I have no religious affiliation. My family of course was reluctant to my choices at first, because as a younger child I had no other choice but to follow their religious practices. As I became older and became more aware of the world around me and the choices I could make, I decided that religion was not an ideal path or idea for me to follow or worship, so I severed my religious ties completely. I am not opposed to my family being religious, and my family the same towards me being unreligious, so our relationship has remained strong and intact. I feel like you should entertain both sides of the matter in your essay.

I find this topic very interesting because I grew up in a town where being religious was the norm. While I myself grew up in a non-religious family, I witnessed several of my friends enduring this struggle between wanting to appease their parents and wanting to stay true to what they wanted to believe. Fundamentally, I think it’s important to let kids make these kinds of life decisions for themselves. Children of religious families tend to be religious themselves, but these are likely traditions passed down from generation to generation. While this is an inherent part of culture, it is still a shame to see families town apart by differing religious views.

This was a great article and it intrigued me very much to see the results of the study presented in it. I come from a family who is not super religious but religion is a big part of our lives. My parents decided when my sister and I were born that we would go to a Christian school growing up, and we did all the way through to grade 7. Now that I have grown up I understand my parents point of view of putting me into this Christian school. I have always had a good relationship with my parents and religion was never a heavy topic for us. I think most of the reason I still follow my religion and get along with my parents is because the never pushed for me to believe what they believed. I went to church and decided on my own that I waned to believe in this. The supported and continue to support me in the decisions I make and I believe this is why we continue to get along.
The study from this article states that children who are not as religious as their parents may have troubles getting along with them or have problems. I agree and disagree with this statement, I think it depends on how religious they are and what religion they follow. I do agree with the statement that if the child is more religious that the parents then they tend to get along better. Most religions hold highly to good relationships and obedience with their parents, which is why I agree with the results of the study shown in the article, even if the child is more religious based on their religion they will still be obedient and most likely carry good relationships with their parents.

When reading the title of this post it made me refer back to my Social Work class in which we spoke about having the human right to choose your own belief at any stage in your life even as a child. The studies explained in this post reeled towards a child and parents relationship strength due to religious beliefs. The overall conclusion depicted was that a daughter/son have a stronger bond and less issues with their parents if their religious beliefs were either the same as the parents or held religious importance higher than their parents. Although it is said to be statistically proven from a study of teens 7-12 and the bond they have with their parents conclude that they have a weak relationship with their parents due to religious disagreements as proof and backing up this topic, I have a completely different view on this issue. In any case with religion being harshly laid down as no other choice in a household or the parents are lenient and believe in letting their child choose on their own leads to a teen for example to disagree, become frustrated with their parents and rebel. The study took place with high school students varying from the ages of 13-18 hence they are at the time of their life where they are developing a sense of self and they do nothing but question every single thing and are not afraid to stand up because most of the time they believe they are right. Above all I agree with the statement ‘”Most religions put some sort of emphasis on obedience to parents”. Growing up as a child my mother would send me to Sunday school, I would sit in a class where a woman would read the bible for hours and then I would go home, I did not want to go to Sunday school because I felt that it was pointless. Some people may see this as forcing a belief on me, which was not the case in my view. It felt more like a waste of time because in the end as I grew up I told her the way I felt and our bond as mother and daughter is nothing but stronger. However not all parents are the same in letting their child decide, and giving some sort of guidance when they are young because kids are in their infantile stage they don’t have that power to shape something. Eventually they will come of the age where they will understand and choose on their own terms.

Even the title of this post automatically captured my interest. Religion is one of the most controversial topics in our society today and I thought it was incredibly interesting to point out how a person’s beliefs affects the relationships established within their own home. Personally, I grew up in a house where we went to church every Sunday: it was a weekly tradition I saw as normal. As we got older, both of my sisters became very involved with the church and actually became more “religious” than both of my parents. Coinciding with the research done in this article, my one sister has a very good relationship with both my mother and father. Perhaps the quality of a parent-child relationship is better when religion plays a prominent role in the child’s life because they follow stricter morals and value things like obedience which makes a parent’s job easier. My oldest sister also has a great relationship with my mother; however, on the contrary she has no relationship with my father whatsoever. Religion is a leading factor in both their lives and they both have very different paternal relationships. As for me, I did not want anything to do with religion for a very long time. Out of the three of us I was probably the “least” religious, but I have very strong relationships with both my mother and father. But I always treated my parents with respect and acted obediently, so we have always gotten along well. I can see where the quality of a relationship may be low if the parent is religious and the child is not because then it can become an authoritarian situation where the child feels pressured by the parent and is actually pushed further away from them and any religious beliefs. In this analysis I think you did a good job of covering these different perspectives and how certain beliefs affect the relationship between a parent and a child.

This post attracted my attention because I grew up in a semi- religious family. Although our religion wasn’t a major part of our lives growing up, my sister and I were always exposed to religious activities and lessons. We were always expected to follow our parent’s paths religiously. However, I had no problem with this because it was how I was raised. I wanted to follow that path and I continue to share my parent’s religion. I also see the other side of the argument though. Some kids may not be as fortunate to agree with their parents religion and I can see hoe that would cause problems within the relationship. I believe that it is important for both the children and the adults to be understanding and considerate in a situation like this. Both must understand that the religion shouldn’t come between them and ruin the relationship. I also liked how you included both sides of the argument and included different possible perspectives. It made the post more interesting and relatable.

This particular article caught my attention right away because it’s always been a pet-peeve of mine when people shove their beliefs down the throats of others; whether it be on a religious matter or something totally unrelated like sports, for example. Especially recently, I’ve had a strong dislike for people who do those kind of things and don’t let their peers practice whatever. Anyways, your article was well researched and well written! I really liked how you focus predominantly on the parent-child relationship as I think that’s a significant topic of concern. I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to have parents who have never been forceful and have let me pave my own way in regards to mostly everything, including religion. However, I have infact been witness to accounts where parents are overbearing and force certain tactics and beliefs on their kids; leading those kids to be disobedient later on. I think that some parents get so overly consumed with the thought of molding their children into exactly what they want them to be that it gets to the point where, once these kids reach an age where they can think and act for themselves, they resent this oppressiveness and justly rebel against it.

When it comes to religious beliefs I was raised in a very open family. My parents are not religious at all and they raised me to be open minded. However I spent my school years from kindergarten through tenth grade in private catholic schools before transferring to the public school system in eleventh grade. This made me well rounded when it came to religious beliefs because I got to see both sides of the argument. In the end I chose to not be religious but many of my friends growing up have had the exact problem that is discussed in the article. I feel when parents push their children into a religion too much they end up rebelling against their parents and resenting the religion. I feel that parents should instill some basic beliefs and morals into their children, however I also believe that parents should be flexible and allow children to formulate their own beliefs as well. This allows the children to become their own person and be free thinkers. If they end up choosing their parents’ religion that’s great! If they don’t that’s fine too, all that matters was that they were able to truly discover what they believe.

Good job writing this article, it is very efficient in getting to the point and keeping the reader’s attention. This subject directly relates to the issues I aim to look at while writing my final project. I aim to show the importance of civil rights and after reading this article it makes this final project even more important because there are some people abroad who do not have the freedom of choice. It is almost unimaginable for us to think that there are young people out there will so much potential that are prevented from thinking the way they want. We often take our freedoms and rights for granted but we should be extremely thankful for what we have and where we live.

This is a great topic that you chose and this subject is, in a way, related with the topic of my final research paper. Even if my subject concerns veiled women, you are making an important point in your text with the fact that sometimes, children do not have the same belief of their parents. You did a great job with this article, because you kept my attention during all my lecture. Because of your article, I realized that it is sure that there are some women who do not have the same thoughts of their parents concerning the veil. They are women who are obligated to wear it because it is symbolic and important for their parents. The example of your mother supports and can be seen as a proof so it has a bigger impact on readers. I really want to thank you for your good article; it will help me for my final paper.

In the book I have read “Integrating Aboriginal Perspectives into the School Curriculum” by Yatta Kanu they explore what knowledge is and how it is influenced by ones beliefs. As you have explored one’s parents influence the belief and trust in knowledge a young one might have. This situation is grandly seen in the aboriginal sector because when young teens are faced with other points of view, then their parents, they lose the sense of community which might explain the high dropout rate.

In the article don’t tell me what to believe, the Author talks about what happens when children are forced by their parents to belive in religion even though they do not want to. I find that this article is quite interesting because many children are forced by there parents to believe in a religion that they do not want to believe in and it can cause many conflicts relationship wise and social wise. This article can be related to my issue because these young children have civil rights themselves and with the parents not respecting their right to belive in what they want, they are getting their civil rights abolished. It is related to the section that I am reading on because that entire section talks about civil rights and consumer protection. It would also talk about these young children defending themselves. In this article here, it talks about the recent charter of values and how families were told by people to change their religion. Maybe look into not only family religion but being forced to change religion when you enter a new country or getting one implemented on you. All in all, very good!!!

I think in a society as multicultural as we currently live in, religion and the difference in religious opinions can have a major impact. I agree with you that religion can cause a lot of relational problems, even enough to start wars and genocides. I think it is considered normal for parents to share their religious views with their children. I have not experienced this myself as I live in a non-religious family, however it has always concerned me. Is it legitimate to teach religion to a child, who isn’t old enough to properly judge by himself?
I do not claim to have an answer to this question, however, I think it can relate to similar events that happened in Quebec recently. Following a bill that the government tried to pass to prevent governmental workers from wearing or expressing any religious item, many people have reacted. Many multicultural institutions such as universities, education organization, and even hospitals have protested against this as CTV Montreal’s article “Lester B. Pearson School Board condemns Charter of Values” published on December 20, 2013 explains it. The main argument of the opposition was that it strips individuals from their rights to express themselves. The opposition favors cultural and religious freedom for anybody. This subject has provoked a lot of debate and the opposition even condemned religious symbols that are more than a century old which are used in the parliament, if the bill was to pass.
In my opinion, religious beliefs are a personal choice that everyone is entitled to make on their own. I believe that no authority should have a say on religious choices as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else than the person who made her own choice. I agree with you that different religious views between parents and children are probably problematic. As a non-religious person, I do not know the views of most religion on children education, however I have always asked myself: How can a person who is considered too young to decide and vote on their own political views be considered old enough to decide and judge of the faith to guide them?

Here is a link to the supporting article:

This is a very interesting study! I am very concerned about the different causes of discords between family members and more precisely when it comes to the parents-children relationship. Religion is surely one of these causes since the religion's importance is less and less present in today's society. However, it would be interesting to know if these discords can lead to the neglect of children. I recently read a section of the book Children's Rights, A Philosophical Study by C. A. Wringe and it makes me think about the reason for which an adult will punish his or her child. Your post made me realize that difference in opinions and beliefs can lead to this.