During the young adult years, parents become more important than peers. Parents’ religious beliefs have an influence on young adults’ approach to parenting and life choices.

December 28, 2021

Religion’s Impact on Parenting

God has called parents to disciple their children. Although many people play a role in discipling children, parents have the largest influence in shaping a child’s religiosity.

A recent article explored the effect of religion on parenting by examining multiple research studies.1

Religion impacts parenting from the very beginning. Parents’ religiosity influences the behaviors and beliefs that they model and then expect from their children. A study that examined Seventh-day Adventist parenting practices found parents followed a certain lifestyle that was then expected to be followed by their children.2 Religion also has a positive impact on the parent/child bond. A study found that religious families have stronger cohesion, especially as it relates to the encouragement of father involvement as the spiritual head of the home.

There are benefits to families in being part of a religious community as children develop. A moral community reinforces the beliefs being taught at home, which increases the chance of children accepting those beliefs. These religious communities also provide emotional, spiritual and sometimes physical support to these families which gives children a positive view of religion.

As children develop into teenagers there are additional benefits. Adolescence is a time of identity development. Religion helps to shape values that then guides the teen into who he/she will become as an adult. Although friends have a greater influence than parents during the teen years, being part of a religious community increases access to religious peers.

During the young adult years, parents become more important than peers. Parents’ religious beliefs have an influence on young adults’ approach to parenting and life choices. In studies conducted on an Adventist college campus, students report that if there is a close bond with parents, they don’t want to disappoint them with choices made.3   

Religion can have negative impacts on parenting as well. If families are living a lifestyle which is discouraged by their religious community, it can be confusing for children. This can cause emotional distress. In addition, very religious parents tend to be strict with their children which can lead to some harm during the teen years, although this will vary depending on community expectations.

In summary, religion sets standards for parenting behaviors that inspires positive role modeling for their children. Religion encourages close family bonds that then impacts a child’s behavior into adulthood. Although there can be some resistance to religion supported by parents during the teen years, it still aids in identity development. Being part of a religious community gives teens access to peers that may reinforce values being taught at home. The goal is to find a balance between how these values are lived in the home within the context of the community in which the family resides.    

1 Petro, M.R., Rich, E.G., Erasmus, C., & Roman N.V. (2017). The effect of religion on parenting in order to guide parents in the way they parent: A systematic review. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19349637.2017.1341823.

2 Godina, L. (2014). Religion and parenting: Ignored relationship? Child and Family Social Work, 19(4), 381‒390.

3 Baltazar, A.M., McBride, D., Ames, B., & Martell, D. (2014, November). Influence of parents and religiosity on alcohol use in a population of Christian college students attending a prohibitionist university: A mixed method approach. Workshop presented at National Council on Family Relations, Baltimore, MD.


Alina Baltazar, PhD, MSW, LMSW, CFLE; professor of Social Work and co-associate director of the Institute for the Prevention of Addiction, Andrews University