Is There a Connection Between Divorce and Religion?
by Caty Long
In a September 27 article in the Washington Post, author Julie Zauzmer discusses the connection between divorce and a decrease in religious affiliation. A new study from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that “Americans who were raised by divorced parents are more likely than children whose parents were married during most of their formative years to be religiously unaffiliated (35% vs. 23% respectively).” Even those raised with religious divorced parents are less likely than their peers to identify as religious or regularly attend religious services.
Previous studies on the rise of religious unaffiliation among millennials have focused more on cultural opinions and preferences, including their dislike of Christian teachings about homosexuality or their disgust over clergy sex abuse scandals. But as one of the PRRI researchers, Daniel Cox, commented in the Post article, the shift in the way millennials were raised compared to previous generations is also an important lens for studying their religious affiliation. Because divorce rates peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s , it has been common, even normal, for millennials to be raised by divorced parents.
Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, affirmed the study’s findings from a pastoral perspective. He expressed concern over the lack of support and outreach from churches to children affected by divorce. Later in life, “as adults, those same people do not believe the church will respond to their adult problems,” Root said. This could very well contribute to the growth of households where both spouses identify as religiously unaffiliated, an important fact for Church ministries to engaged and married couples.
About the author
Caty Long is a first year Master of Theological Studies student at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute and currently an intern for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth at the USCCB.