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Findings on Marriage

We have identified how religious beliefs such as the permanence of marriage and practices such as prayer helped couples avoid and resolve marital conflict. We identified processes at work among religious couples that promote fidelity. We identified ways that religious belief and practice help couples make important changes and cope with difficult challenges. It appears that the ability to unite during challenges, more than avoiding challenges, defines strong marriages. We identified the ways that religious belief and practice strengthens marital commitment. We explored the meaning of marriage to religious couples including finding evidence that highly religious couples are not following the trend in the United States where marriage is being deinstitutionalized. We found that marriage benefits not merely from sharing the same faith, but from sharing similar levels of involvement and commitment [a “shared vision” of faith and family life].

Findings on Youth Spiritual Development

In a series of three papers we (a) identified what we called “anchors of religious commitment,” or those personal and relational processes that encouraged youth to develop and maintain their religious commitment; (b) identified processes that lead adolescents to establish a strong religious identity, including building strong relationships with parents and youth leaders; and (c) identified the kinds of sacrifices that religious youth make for their faith, the reasons they are willing to make those sacrifices, and the ways youth believe making these sacrifices bless their lives.

Findings on Family Processes

We explored important processes when parents and adolescent children have conversations about religious matters. This study identified how parents can talk with their youth in ways that are more likely to result in youth initiated further religious conversations and feeling good about them. We identified ten processes that religious families employ to strive to achieve sacred purposes. These processes serve as a bridge between the context of religious beliefs, spiritual practices, and faith communities and the many positive outcomes that have been identified for religious couples and families in our research and other studies. In sum, it is not what families believe, but what they do that matters most.

Development of Generative Faith Perspective

From a decade of sustained analyses of our data set we have developed a conceptual framework about the nexus of religion and relationships that we call Generative Faith. We contrast generative faith with self-oriented faith and destructive faith. We are currently writing books that use this framework to explain how couples and families can best combine faith and family life.