The Role of Religion in the Family Formation Processes of Young Adults

David Eggebeen, Pennsylvania State University
Jeff Dew, Pennsylvania State University

This paper examines the role of religious beliefs and behavior in adolescence in shaping subsequent family formation choices. Data are drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. We explore the role of three dimensions of religious life—affiliation, attendance, and religious fervor, both singly and in combination for the transition to either marriage or cohabitation. We find that while each dimension of religiosity strongly predicts subsequent union formation, it is the particular combination of these dimensions that is especially important for understanding the likelihood of cohabiting. Given that over a third of religiously inclined adolescents end up cohabiting, we explore whether religion affects patterns of subsequent cohabitation. Modest evidence exists that religious adolescents are likely to have shorter cohabitation spells that end up in marriage.

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Presented in Session 26: Union Formation