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The Influence of Early Life Course Religious Exposure on Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Childbearing

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Previous research about religion and childbearing focuses on childbearing behavior, yet is motivated by the idea that behavioral outcomes result from the influence of religion on individuals’ childbearing dispositions. This article describes how early life religious exposure may influence young adults’ childbearing attitudes and preferences as they transition to adulthood. Analyses of intergenerational panel data suggest that, compared with others, young adults with Catholic mothers, or mothers who frequently attend religious services, are more likely to object to voluntary childlessness, to feel the average American family should have more children, and to desire many children for themselves. The effect of having a Catholic mother appears to operate through the mother’s own dispositions and behaviors. The effect of their mothers’ religious service attendance operates through the young adults’ own religious participation and the importance they place on religion. The consistent effects of early life religious exposure on subsequent child-bearing dispositions outweigh the effects of socioeconomic factors and point to religion as an influential institution in the formation of child-bearing preferences.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Michigan [email protected]

Publication date: 01 June 2002

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