- The purpose of this study was to investigate some of the
factors from childhood experience which might contribute to the kind
of church attendance practices which individuals adopt as adults.
The factors chosen for investigation were enforced church attendance
in childhood, parental church attendance practices, the kind of discipline
employed in the parental home, and the theological position
of the church attended in childhood. The five specific hypotheses
which were tested were:
1. There is no relationship between parentally enforced church
attendance of young children and the church attendance
practices which these individuals have as adults.
2. There is no relationship between parental church attendance
patterns and the church attendance patterns of their offspring
as adults. 3. There is no relationship between parental discipline and
adoption of the parents' church attendance habits by the
offspring as adults.
4. There is no relationship between the theological position
of the church individuals attended as children and the degree
of participation in church as adults.
5. There is no significant association among enforced
church attendance, parental church attendance, parental
discipline, theological position of childhood church, and
present adult church attendance practices in the population
Data were obtained through the use of a questionnaire devised
by the investigator expressly for this study. The sample consisted
of 221 Protestant church members from six churches representing
a range of theological positions located in the area in and around
Huntington, Long Island, New York. Churches used for this purpose
were a Unitarian Fellowship, Episcopalian, two Presbyterian
churches, a Missouri Synod Lutheran and an Assembly of God (Pentecostal)
church. Subjects were contacted by mail and responded
to the questionnaires anonymously. Responses were categorized on
a three -by -five table according to the respondents' present church
attendance practices (no relationship to a church, casual relationship
to a church, active relationship to a liberal, moderate or conservative church) in relation to having been forced or not forced
to attend church as children, parental church attendance practices
(active, casual, no relationship), type of discipline used in the parental
home (strict, moderate, permissive), and theological position
of church attended as children (liberal, moderate, conservative,
Chi - square tests of independence were performed on the data
on each of the past experience variables in relation to present church
attendance practices. Contingency coefficients were then computed
for each of the past experience variables in relation to each other
and in relation to the present church attendance variable. On the
basis of these coefficients, degree of association among the variables
could be determined.
No relationship was found between parentally enforced church
attendance and the church attendance practices of individuals as
adults. However, a relationship was found to exist between parental
church attendance and adult church attendance, and when parentally
enforced church attendance was considered together with parental
church attendance practices it was found that combined they have a
relationship to adult church attendance which is highly significant.
A relationship was found to exist between parental discipline
and adult church attendance practices which i s most
apparent along the dimension of strict parental discipline in that individuals reared in strict homes tend to adopt church attendance
practices different from those of their parents.
On the basis of the contingency coefficients computed, no direct
relationship was found to exist between the theological position of
the church attended in childhood and present church attendance practices.
However, a very high relationship was found to exist between
this factor and parental church attendance, which in turn is related
to adult church attendance practices. Present church attendance
practices were found to have a relatively low relationship with
parental discipline, which in turn has a higher relationship to enforced
church attendance in childhood. Enforced church attendance
was found to be related in turn to theological position of the church
attended in childhood. The only factors which were not directly
related to adult church attendance practices were enforced church
attendance in childhood and theological position of childhood church.
The main value to be derived from this exploratory study lies
in its generation of hypotheses for further study, in part due to the
fact that the sample is not representative of a well- defined population.