A Longitudinal Study of Religious Doubts in High School and Beyond: Relationships, Stability, and Searching for Answers

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This questionnaire study of 939 senior high school students, and a follow-up of 336 of these people two years later, investigated a variety of issues related to religious doubts and their implications for adolescents’ lives. Although average doubt levels were “mild” as measured by the Religious Doubts scale, the greatest doubts were expressed based on religion’s failure to make people “better,” the claimed infallibility of scriptures, and pressures to accept religious teachings. Doubting was consistently related to decreased personal religiousness, and doubt levels remained relatively stable over the two years of this study. Greater doubting was linked with more problematic family environments, and less parental warmth and strictness. There was mixed evidence that doubt was associated with poorer personal adjustment, and when these relationships were investigated within major denominational subgroupings, only (some) associations for mainstream Protestants were significant. Doubting was also associated with an inclination to consult anti-religious sources of information (rather than pro-religious sources), and these styles of consultation also predicted levels of future religiousness.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-5906.00115

Affiliations: 1: Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada bhunsber@wlu.ca 2: Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada mpratt@wlu.ca 3: Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada mpancer@wlu.ca

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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