Teens, Religion and Sex

The Dallas Morning News recently conducted a Q&A with Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas in Austin. Regnerus helped lead a multi-year research project on teens, religion and sex, the results of which appear in his new book, Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teens.

Here are some excerpts:

One of the arguments in your book is that religion makes a difference in the lives of American teens. What difference does religion make?

Simply being Presbyterian or Catholic or evangelical is not as important as internalizing the faith. Kids for whom Christianity is a central identity – not just another aspect of their lives – tend to make more thoughtful and mature decisions about sex. But this is rarer than most people think: Less than 10 percent of all youth do this.

In the book, you write about surprising findings concerning evangelical teens. What were they?

Evangelical teens express conservative attitudes about sex, but they are very average in their actual behavior. Why? Because evangelical kids live in two worlds. The new world tells them to value career, self-fulfillment, happiness and entertainment – and this is what adults and parents model for them. But the old world – to which evangelicals still pay deference – values keeping commitments, God, marriage and delaying pleasure.

Most American kids only live in the new world. Evangelicals still inhabit both. The result is conflict and compromise: old world values but new world actions.

Parents and adults, did you get that? Unless we model what we believe, our teens are less likely to follow through on what they believe. We teach with our lives as much if not more than with our words.

HT: The Evangelical Outpost

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