Empty nests and empty pews: Church affiliation declines after high school

ErmitaStep into any church on Sunday morning and you’ll most likely find a congregation split into two distinct groups: parents with their children and cotton-topped old timers. Who’s missing here? The young adults. The reasons for this vacuum are still speculative, but the trend is clear, and it appears to ramp up after high school. A team of psychologists from UCLA just completed a four-year longitudinal study looking at the religious transitions from adolescence to young adulthood. Their data show a remarkable decline in formal religious affiliation as kids leave home and head off to college. Having spread their wings, teenagers usually fly away from the sanctuary.

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