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How Does Religion Influence Family Formation Decisions? 2

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Given that past literature on the topic suggests that religion has a notable influence on adherents’ family formation practices and that religion is associated with more traditional attitudes and family formation structures, going forward it will be particularly important to assess what specific qualities of religious factors contribute to the noted consistencies between adherents’ beliefs and behavior. For instance, in the case of Eggebeen and Dew’s finding about the religious factors that point to the different cohabitation rates between Catholics and Conservative Protestants (see above), what about displaying “fervor” aids individuals to behave counter-culturally? How does religious fervor come about? Research models that include the greatest number of religious measures, such as Cornwall’s model, which consist of: “Group involvement, belief-orthodoxy, religious commitment, religious socialization, and socio-demographic characteristics,” could allow scholars to determine the most accurate results about the role that multiple facets of religiosity have on people’s lives. Additionally, given that the Catholic Church is not the only religious group that does not view the behaviors encompassed in cohabitation as beneficial, future studies should aim to include as many religions as possible and should differentiate Protestants groups by denomination. Doing so could help to clarify how the specific religious beliefs of a group influence their behavior.

As cohabitation and other changing practices in the realm of sexuality and family life, become more prevalent in Western countries, further research about the association between religion and family formation will be of great importance for both scholars who study culture, religion and family, and for the many groups that hold norms, values, and beliefs that are in opposition to these societal trends. A greater understanding of the ways members of religious groups respond to the dichotomy between societal and group-specific beliefs and their own family formation practices could enable religious leaders to assess modes of aiding their members in reconciling the contradictions they face daily between larger society and their beliefs (for instance: program development to help their adherents understand why their group upholds their specific norms, values and beliefs), and could empower individuals with the information they require to make informed decisions about their sexuality, marriage, and family life.


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