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Eileen Tam, Carolyn M. Barry, Ph.D.

The Relation between Perceived Parents’ Religiousness and Their Emerging-Adult Children’s Psychological Adjustment by Way of Perceived Marital Functioning

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There are numerous studies focusing on religion and its relation with marital satisfaction and marital conflict. However, the majority of research regarding interfaith marriages and families has focused on the parents, including the relation between religion and marital satisfaction and the relation between religion and parent-child relationship quality. There is minimal research on the children of interfaith parents and the possible association that conflicting religions may have with children’s psychological adjustment. In addition, nearly all research pertaining to children of interfaith marriages focuses on the childhood or adolescent period. However, it is important to study emerging-adult children because they experience heightened identity exploration as well as experimentation of world views and pursuit of romantic partners. As emerging adults seek to resolve their identity, religion may also play an important role in their psychological adjustment because research has shown that religion is associated positively with children’s psychological adjustment. Thus, it is important to study the possible association between the religiousness of emerging-adult children and their psychological adjustment as well as the association between the perceived marital functioning of their caregivers with their psychological adjustment.

Previous research, however, has shown mixed results regarding the religiousness and psychological adjustment of children of interfaith and intrafaith families. These previous studies contained many limitations, such as the failure to determine the level of religiousness of each parent and focusing instead on affiliation. In addition, some studies did not mention the types of religious affiliations with which each spouse identified, focusing only on shared or not shared religious affiliation. These studies may have produced results that pertain to specific combinations of religious affiliations whereas other combinations may have other results. Indeed, previous research did not include various types of religious affiliations, focusing mainly on Catholics, Jews, and Protestants. It is important to acknowledge that there are numerous combinations of interfaith marriages and gaining insight into which combinations are related to greater marital instability will aid in understanding what promotes their emerging-adult children’s psychological adjustment.

Further research is necessary to determine the association between the level of religiousness as well as specific religious affiliation with interfaith and intrafaith marriages in addition to the emerging-adult children’s psychological adjustment. Further, the religiousness of the parents is related to the level of religiousness of the children. Thus, focusing on the relation between the marital couple’s religiousness and the emerging-adult children’s religiousness can provide insight into the emerging-adult children’s mental health. Consequently, the relation between the religiousness of the emerging-adult children and their psychological adjustment is an important focus.

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