Mothers as Models of Faith in the Family Today
by Caty Long
A recent report from the Pew Research Center, cited by an article in The Atlantic, shows that when one parent is more involved in the children’s religious upbringing, mothers are more influential on their children’s religious participation than are fathers. One-third of 5,000 surveyed adult Americans said their mother took on more responsibility for their religious exposure, whether that was taking the kids to Sunday school or accompanying them to church services each week.
In general, American women tend to be more religious than men, even when their husbands are of a different faith or not religious at all. Religious views seem to factor more into marriage and child-rearing for women. Sixty-eight percent of unmarried women expressed the importance of their future spouse practicing a religion. And approximately half of those who grew up in interfaith households (one-in-five Americans) now practice the religion of their mother. For reasons yet unexplored, women seem to naturally assume more responsibility for the spiritual welfare of their children.
There are exceptions, of course. Many people who responded to the Pew survey reported a balance in their religious upbringing: 58 percent said that both parents contributed equally to their religious formation. While there may very well be a shift toward a more equal involvement of both parents in religious education, the more religious mothers may still be the ones with more influence.
Despite growing numbers of religiously unaffiliated people (often called “nones” in research), this survey shows that religion still plays a key role in family life, which is a heartening observation.
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.