Religious Commitment, Skepticism, and Struggle Among U.S. College Students: The Impact of Majority/Minority Religious Affiliation and Institutional Type

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Using a longitudinal sample of over 14,000 undergraduate students, this study explores whether and how students’ religious transformations during the college years are associated with their religious affiliation, religious experiences, and the institutional characteristics of their college or university. Hierarchical linear modeling reveals that students from religious majority groups (i.e., mainline and evangelical Protestants) generally experience increased religious commitment and decreased religious skepticism as compared with students from religious minority groups. Interestingly, though, students from these majority groups also report greater levels of religious struggle compared to minority group students. Moreover, institutional religious affiliation and an inclusive campus religious climate often attenuate the relationship between students’ religious affiliation and their religious transformation. Environments at both the macro (campus) and micro (friendship groups) levels contribute critically to young adults’ religious commitment.

Keywords: college students; commitment; religious affiliation; skepticism; struggle

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary EducationUniversity of Michigan 2: Center for Social ConcernsUniversity of Notre Dame

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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