Religious Conversion and Switching

Dudley, R. L. 1999. "Youth Religious Commitment over Time: A Longitudinal Study of Retention." Review of Religious Research vol. 41, pp. 110-121.
Abstract: Over 1500 middle-teenagers were selected from Seventh-day Adventist churches throughout the United States and Canada for a longitudinal study on church retention and dropout. A new survey was sent each year for ten years, collecting a wide variety of information on family background and personal beliefs, attitudes, and practices. At the end of ten years it was determined how many of these now young adults were still church members, how many were active in their congregations, and how many had dropped out of membership or become inactive during the study period. These facts were then correlated with information collected during the first year of the study on family background and religious beliefs and practices to develop predictions about what things in the lives of church- affiliated teenagers will influence whether they continue in the church or drop out of it as young adults. [Source: SC]

Streib, H. 1999. "Off-Road Religion? A Narrative Approach to Fundamentalist and Occult Orientations of Adolescents." Journal of Adolescence vol. 22, pp. 255-267.
Abstract: Results of qualitative biographical research on Christian fundamentalist converts and de-converts, and on occultist adolescents are presented and documented using case studies. Research focused on life themes and on biographical processes and transformations. Contrastive comparison of the cases resulted in typologies of Christian fundamentalist biographies and of "ways of dis-enchantment". These indicate that obligation to a tradition is no longer the model for religious socialization. Its competitors are biographical trajectories which can have the following characteristics: heresy is taken for granted, religious search is like an open life-style preference (accumulative heretic); ritual coping with life themes is predominant; and religious search follows the motive of sensation-seeking. A typology of religious styles is applied as an interpretive framework for (a) explaining the formation of fundamentalist orientations and (b) understanding development and transformation in religious biographies. [Source: ML]

Horton, Darcy Ann. 1998. "Adolescent Daughters and the Impact and Meaning of the Loss of Their Mothers to Breast Cancer." Ph.D. Thesis, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto.
Abstract: This study explored the impact and meaning of the loss of one's mother to breast cancer as experienced by 8 ethnically diverse women, aged 28 to 53, who were 12- to 19- years-old when their mothers died. Multiple case study and feminist methodologies were used to investigate the impact on various areas of the participants' lives as well as any meaning they found in the experience. Findings indicated that maternal death is a profound event for adolescent daughters. Various patterns emerged in each of the areas studied. Regarding body, breasts, and sexuality, there was anxiety about developing breast cancer with either conscious awareness or latent presence. Regarding psychological development and functioning, there was premature autonomy and responsibility with either assumption of responsibility or acting out and struggle, and an underlying vulnerability or strength. Regarding spiritual and religious beliefs and practices, there was change in spiritual and religious orientation with disillusionment with God and organized religion and the development of personal spirituality. Regarding work, school, and career plans, choices in these areas were affected by mother's absence with choices as a way of identifying or pleasing mother and unfulfilled potential due to mother's absence. Regarding relationships with others, there was a lack of support for grieving within the immediate family with emotional and/or physical unavailability of the father, father's lack of communication with daughter about mother, deterioration of family as a unit, and grief support received from other females as well as heightened fear of loss of additional loved ones with fear of abandonment or intimacy and/or behavior that was overly controlling, protective or detached. Data on meaning revealed the unpredictable and transitory nature of life with awareness of the uncertainty and finiteness of life and the preciousness of each moment, plus a realignment of life's priorities with a focus on relationships and health. [Source: DA]

Kujawa, Sheryl A. 1998. Disorganized Religion: The Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults. Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications.

Bisset, John T. 1997. Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith. Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers.

Hoge, Dean R., Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens. 1995. "Types of Denominational Switching among Protestant Young Adults." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion vol. 34, pp. 253-258.
Abstract: Telephone survey data from 500 US young adults ages 33-42 who grew up Presbyterian reveal four motivations of people who switched denominations: (1) interfaith marriage; (2) moving to a different town or neighborhood; (3) dissatisfaction with one's church; & (4) personal ties & influences. The third motivation was often associated with a conversion or renewal of commitment. Switches for the first two reasons tended to be within mainline Protestant denominations, while switches for the third reason tended to pull a person outside the mainline. Afterward, switchers became more church-inolved than nonswitchers, especially those citing reason 3. [Source: SA]

Sherkat, Darren E. and John Wilson. 1995. "Preferences, Constraints, and Choices in Religious Markets: An Examination of Religious Switching and Apostasy." Social Forces vol. 73, pp. 993-1026.
Abstract: Formulates a demand side complement to the existing supply side theories of religion to demonstrate how choices of religious affiliation resemble other cultural choices. The study uses data from the Youth-Parent Socialization Panel Study. The 1st wave of the study in 1965 yielded responses from 1,669 high school seniors and 1,562 of their parents; the 2nd wave collected in 1973 retained 1,348 of the youths from the original panel and 1,179 of the parents. Building on earlier formulations of the link between social status and religious preference, this analysis argues that social status both influences preferences and choices. The data indicate that religious preference is molded by prior religious consumption, which in turn influences religious choices later in life. Finally, normative constraints influence individual behavior in the religious marketplace. [Source: PI]

Filius, Rens Jan. 1992. "Types of Adolescent Religious Conversion and Perception of Family Functioning."Ph.D. Thesis, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University, La Mirada.
Abstract: Developmental factors influencing adolescent religious conversion are examined in this study. Blos' theory of adolescent separation and individuation, Erikson's theory of ego identity development, and a developmental model of family functioning are discussed in relationship to adolescent religious conversion. Two typologies of conversion, sudden versus gradual and inter- versus intra-faith, were used to investigate the relationship with family functioning. It was hypothesized (a) that adolescents who have experienced a sudden religious conversion perceive their family as more extreme, and more frequently possess a foreclosed religious identity status and indiscriminantly proreligious orientation; (b) adolescents who have experienced a gradual religious conversion perceive their family as more balanced, more frequently possess an achieved religious identity status, and an intrinsic religious orientation; (c) adolescents who have experienced an inter-faith conversion perceive their family as less cohesive and those who had an intra-faith conversion will perceive their family as more cohesive; (d) adolescents from families holding strong religious values more frequently have an intra-faith conversion; (e) democratic family style correlates positively with intrinsic and consensual religious orientations, and achieved identity status. Undergraduate students from an evangelical and a state university participated in this study (N = 173). Subjects who had experienced an adolescent conversion were identified (n = 46). Three control groups were used: (a) Christian students who had experienced a childhood conversion and a religious recommitment in adolescence, (b) Christians who did not experience a change in faith, and (c) non-Christians. Analyses of variance were used to test the hypotheses; discriminant function analyses were used to explore additional relationships. Only the hypotheses concerning the inter-/intra-faith conversion typology were supported. The suddenness of conversion is less affected by family functioning compared to a change from the faith in which an individual has been socialized. Perception of religious emphasis in the family was the most important variable for prediction of group membership. It was concluded that antecedents of religious conversion are mostly religious variables. Religious socialization in general merits greater attention in research concerning religious conversion. [Source: DA]

Kox, Willem, Wim Meeus, and Harm Hart. 1991. "Religious Conversion of Adolescents: Testing the Lofland and Stark Model of Religious Conversion."Sociological Analysis vol. 52, pp. 227-240.
Abstract: John Lofland's & Rodney Stark's model of religious conversion (see SA 14:5/66C1173) was tested using survey data from 92 Dutch adolescents. The data show that respondents are attracted to religious groups because the group: (1) offers a new perspective on life & so liberates them from entrapment in their own problems; & (2) provides a satisfying personal network. It is concluded that while the model describes the primary conditions of conversion, it is inadequate as a model for the overall process. [Source: SA]

Sherkat, Darren E. and John Wilson. 1991. "Religious Mobility and Religious Socialization." Paper presented at American Sociological Association (ASA).
Abstract: Research on religious switching has largely focused on the role of status factors, though the importance of denominational attributes & of socialization in binding people to their denomination of origin has been noticed more recently. Here, this research is extended by specifying a causal model of religious disaffiliation. Using data from the Youth-Parent Socialization Panel Study, the usefulness of status, denominational, & socialization theories in predicting apostasy & switching is assessed via multinominal logit regression models. On the basis of these associational findings, causal models of the processes of apostasy & religious switching are specified using structural probit models estimated with LISCOMP. Results indicate that the successful transmission of religious beliefs & practices plays a significant role in the likelihood of changing religious preferences & of apostasy. Specifically, adolescent religious beliefs & affective closeness to parents predict apostasy, whereas adolescent church attendance predicts religious switching. Parents' education & religiosity predict their adolescent children's religious beliefs & participation, which then affect the likelihood of apostasy & switching. Indirect effects of gender & denomination on switching & apostasy are also examined. [Source: SA]

Wilson, John and Sharon Sandomirsky. 1991. "Religious Affiliation and the Family." Sociological Forum vol. 6, pp. 289-309.
Abstract: Examined the function of the family as a mediator between the individual and the church. 539 male and 327 female high school juniors and seniors with no religious affiliation in 1965-1966 were resurveyed in 1979 at age 28-31 yrs. Reasons many Ss became church members by age 30 were explained in terms of a combination of individual attributes (e.g., educational and spatial mobility) and changes in structural location (e.g., the transition to marital and parental status). Females' vs males' chances of affiliation were more affected by parents' religious homogamy, getting married, and having children. [Source: PI]

Kirkpatrick, Lee A. and Phillip R. Shaver. 1990. "Attachment Theory and Religion: Childhood Attachments, Religious Beliefs, and Conversion." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion vol. 29, pp. 315-334.

Schwartz, Lita Linzer and Natalie Isser. 1987. "Proselytizers of Jewish Youth." Journal of Psychology and Judaism vol. 11, pp. 181-195.

Judah, J. Stillson. 1982. "From Political Activism to Religious Participation." Update pp. 11-20.
Abstract: The paper demonstrates that conversion to a new religion was a response to a need, however temporary, when there was a loss of identity during a period of change. Utilizing data from surveys of and interviews with members of the Hare Krishna movement and the Unification Church, the author demonstrates that the models for "brainwashing" do not fit the empirical data concerning these conversions. These were countercultural youth who, being unable to make the change to the culture and religions of the establishment, found identity in the sub-culture and religions of the counterculture. [Source: RI]

Ullman, Chana. 1982. "Cognitive and Emotional Antecedents of Religious Conversion." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology vol. 43, pp. 183-192.
Abstract: Evaluated the contribution of several cognitive factors (tolerance of ambiguity, impermeability of present belief system, and cognitive quest) and emotional factors (perception of childhood relationship with parents, and childhood and adolescence stress and trauma) in precipitating religious conversion. Ss were 40 religious converts (aged 20-40 yrs) from 4 religious groups (Jewish, Catholic, Bahai, and Hare Krishna) and 30 age-matched religiously affiliated nonconverts (Jewish and Catholic). Converts' present belief systems were judged as more impermeable; but contrary to the cognitive hypotheses, the groups did not differ on several measures of tolerance of ambiguity and in degree of cognitive quest during adolescence. Emotional factors were more closely associated with religious conversion. Converts' perceptions of their parents were markedly more negative, and incidence of father absence was higher in the convert sample. Converts reported more traumatic events during childhood and described their childhood and adolescence as unhappy. In the interview with converts, personal stress was also reported more often than cognitive quest as characterizing the 2-yr period preceding conversion and as involved in the immediate consequences of conversion. [Source: PI]

Vigil, James D. 1982. "Human Revitalization: The Six Tasks of Victory Outreach." Drew Gateway pp. 49-59.
Abstract: Certain facets of the anthropological revitalization model are used to examine why urban street youth are attracted to a Pentecostal program. This Protestant, fundamentalist program is expressly formulated to convert young people to a religious life by instilling in them the motives for personal and (eventual) social reform. The processual framework of conversion closely resembles the revitalization stages which individuals and groups undergo (cargo cults, messianic movements, nativist strivings) to reduce stress and thereby experience cultural regeneration, especially in situations of culture conflict. While the results are often inconclusive, most of the people who experience the program remain positively disposed to the process. [Source: RI]

Apprey, Maurice. 1981. "Family, Religion and Separation: The Effort to Separate in the Analysis of a Pubertal Adolescent Boy." Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology vol. 4, pp. 137-155.
Abstract: Examines the process whereby a 13-yr-old male used analysis to take progressive and retrogressive steps to effect a relative separation from his infantile object ties. The S's background, his religious conversion to the Mormon faith, the diagnostic formulation and initial therapeutic strategy, the problem of separation, 1st- and 2nd-yr treatment, partial resolution of conflicts with his father, and the negotiation and emergence of the S's heterosexual ambitions are discussed. Analysis facilitated the S's use of the religious conversion as an adaptive transition from his earlier infantile object tie to its consequent renunciation and strengthened his certainty of himself as a young man with mature heterosexual ambitions. [Source: PI]

Fichter, Joseph H. 1981. "Youth in Search of the Sacred." Pp. 21-41 in The Social Impact of New Religious Movements, edited by B. Wilson. Barrytown, N.Y.: Unification Theological Seminary.

Whitehead, Mark L. 1981. "The Effect of Conversion on Adolescent Identity." Ph.D. Thesis, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary.
Abstract: This study focused on the influence of Christian conversion and recommitment on adolescent identity, and whether conversion or recommitment could be predicted from the identity level of adolescents. The study tested four major hypotheses: (1) Non-Christians who convert will improve on the first five of Erikson's identity stages more than will those who do not convert. (2) Christians who recommit themselves to Christianity will improve on the first five of Erikson's identity stages more than will those who do not recommit. (3) The initial identity levels will be different for those who subsequently experience conversion as compared to those who remain non-converted. (4) The initial identity levels will be different for those who subsequently experience recommitment as compared to those who remain non-recommitted. The sample included 138 adolescents. The adolescents attended one of two weekend ski camps which were religiously oriented. Each of the camps had religious services one evening in which an appeal was made for the campers to convert or to recommit themselves to Christianity. Each camper was administered two questionnaires on the way to the camp and nearly identical questionnaires on the return trip. The first questionnaire identified an individual's religious identification as either non-Christian, ethical Christian or born-again Christian. Those who did not identify themselves as born-again Christians on the pre-test and did so on the post-test were considered converts for the purpose of this study. The post-test contained an item to identify those who recommitted themselves to Christianity. The second questionnaire identified levels of identity on the first five of Erikson's eight identity stages. Non-converts increased in Industry and decreased in Inferiority, while converts changed in the opposite direction. The non-recommitment group increased in Identity while those who recommitted changed in the opposite direction. Age was found to be predictive of conversion. Younger non-Christians were more likely to experience conversion. Age was also significantly related to identity scores in support of Erikson's developmental theory. Change on the subscale of Autonomy was significantly related to sex. These results imply that resistance to an appeal to change one's identity initially has an identity firming result. Conversely, the data also imply that changing one's identity in response to an appeal to change initially has an identity fragmenting result. [Source: DA]

Roozen, David A. 1980. "Church Dropouts: Changing Patterns of Disengagement and Re-Entry." Review of Religious Research suppl pp. 427-450.
Abstract: Defining a church dropout as one who has not attended religious services for two or more years, the study estimates that 46 percent of Americans drop out of active religious participation sometime during their lifetime, the rate greatest among teenagers. The teenage peak in the dropout rate is found across all categories of control variables and appears due primarily to lessening parental influence and a general feeling that the church has little to offer. Once past the teens, personal reasons for disengagement (moving to a new community, change in work schedule, poor health) predominate, especially for those over fifty-four. The study finds little historical variation in the dropout rate from the 1930s through the 1950s. In the 1960s, however, there was a significant increase in the dropout rate, with only slight abatement in the 1970s. The study suggests that church disengagement is a temporary, rather than permanent, stage in one's life. Up to 80 percent of religious dropouts, depending upon age at disengagement, re-enter active church involvement. The re-entry rate is greatest among those 25 to 34 years old the net gain-loss rate for the population as a whole is positive only during the 1970s. [Source: RI]

Zaretsky, Irving I. 1980. "Youth and Religious Movements." Adolescent Psychiatry vol. 8, pp. 281-287.
Abstract: Examines the historical context of adolescents' attraction to religious ideas and movements, noting that the desire for social change through personal transformation is the main characteristic of participants in religious groups. Anthropological aspects of religious group membership are considered, along with parallels between psychotherapy and the processes of religious conversion. The need for longitudinal studies of adolescent converts is emphasized. [Source: PI]

Deutsch, Alexander and Michael J. Miller. 1979. "Conflict, Character, and Conversion: Study of a "New-Religion" Member." Adolescent Psychiatry vol. 7, pp. 257-268.
Abstract: Presents a case study of a young woman, raised as a Catholic, who became a member of a religious cult in her early 20's. The influences of certain psychic conflicts and character trends on her attraction to group life and teachings are examined, and the nature of the late adolescent turmoil that preceded her conversion is described. [Source: PI]

Lingren, Paul G. 1979. "Personality and Self Concept Variables in Adolescent Religious Conversion Experiences." Thesis, Rosemead Graduate School of Professional Psychology, La Mirada.

Dudley, Roger L. 1978. Why Teenagers Reject Religion and What to Do About It. Washington: Review and Herald Pub. Association.

Parker, Mitchell S. 1978. "Dimensions of Religious Conversion During Adolescence." Thesis, State University of New York, Buffalo.

Schwartz, Hillel. 1974. "Adolescence and Revivals in Ante-Bellum Boston." Journal of Religious History vol. 8, pp. 144-158.
Abstract: In the early 1800s, adult images of youth encouraged the impression that religious revivals were primarily adolescent phenomena. Revivalists who came to Boston between 1820 and 1845 - C. G. Finney, John Maffitt, E. N. Kirk and Jacob Knapp - equated the character of adolescence with the qualities of true conversion. Anti-revivalists, reluctant or unable to deal with the sexual implications of puberty (especially in young women), divorced true conversion from the sudden passions of youth and accused revivalists of pandering to adolescent emotions. Whether or not adolescents were the majority of revival converts, revivalist and anti-revivalist alike expected converts in revivals to act in conformity with their coherent perception of adolescence. [Source: RI]

Allison, Joel. 1969. "Religious Conversion: Regression and Progression in an Adolescent Experience." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion vol. 8, pp. 23-38.
Abstract: Describes the sudden and dramatic religious conversion experience of a male divinity student in terms of its role in adolescent development. Preliminary findings were based on a study of divinity students 7 with intense conversion experiences, 7 with mild or weak experiences, and 6 with none. Particular emphasis was placed on the s's perception of family relationships, and especially on how the conversion experience serves to alter a perception of the actual father as weak, ineffective, or absent by supplying instead an internal representation of a strong and principled substitute paternal figure with clear values and firm judgments. This representation of a positive and a powerful paternal figure is seen as crucial in aiding the adolescent process of individuation and differentiation by countering strong longings to retain or reestablish a sense of undifferentiated union with the maternal figure. [Source: PI]

Christensen, Carl W. 1965. "Religious Conversion in Adolescence." Pastoral Psychology vol. 16, pp. 17-28.