A Review Of Vern Bengston, Norella Putney, And Susan Harris, “Families And Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations.” New York: Oxford, 2013. 288 Pp. $29.95. -- By: Shane W. Parker

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 19:1 (Spring 2014)
Article: A Review Of Vern Bengston, Norella Putney, And Susan Harris, “Families And Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations.” New York: Oxford, 2013. 288 Pp. $29.95.
Author: Shane W. Parker


A Review Of Vern Bengston, Norella Putney, And Susan Harris, “Families And Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations.” New York: Oxford, 2013. 288 Pp. $29.95.

Shane W. Parker

Teaching Pastor
Crossroads Church
Columbia, South Carolina
Adjunct Professor of Leadership and Church Ministry
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, KY

In Families and Faith, social scientist Vern Bengston, along with his research assistants Norella Putney, and Susan Harris, offers three intriguing questions:

  • To what extent are families able to pass on their religious faith to the next generation in today’s rapidly changing society?
  • How has this changed over the past several decades, in the context of remarkable cultural, familial, and religious change in American society?
  • Why are some families able to achieve their goal of transmitting their faith to their children, while others are not? (11, 12)

The responses to these lines of inquiry, as outlined by Bengston, form the core of Families and Faith. The book is the result of a 35-year longitudinal study, involving over 3,500 participants across four generations, which took place from 1970 to 2005.

The primary areas of exploration center around the concepts of “religious transmission” and “religious continuity” (4). The operative theory at work in the text is the “life course perspective,” which “focuses on the influences represented by historical time (‘period’), biographical time (‘age’), and generational time (‘cohort’) and the way these intertwine to mold human behavior” (12).

The associated concept of “linked lives” is consistently emphasized, as Bengston looks at an individual’s maturation and notes that “their development is enmeshed with the developing lives of others in their social network, particularly parents and grandparents (or children and grandchildren)” (12).This becomes an integral focus of the proposed use of the research findings, as this framework disavows the notion of “a passive child receiving religious input from a parent,” while providing added insight needed for the “longer years of linked lives” which are to come with increased life expectancy (12).

The summary conclusions derived from the data collection and analysis processes are as follows:

  • Religious families are surprisingly successful at transmission.
  • Parental influence has not declined since the 1970s.
  • Parental warmth is the key to successful transmission.
  • Grandparents are more important than we recognize.
  • Interfaith ...
    You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
    Click here to subscribe
    visitor : : uid: ()