Survey: Parents Rely on Personal Experience Over Biblical Guidance

( [email protected] ) Mar 02, 2009 12:09 PM EST
Although most parents say they are trying to improve their parenting skills, few look to the Bible or church for guidance, a new study shows.
Nicole and Justin Hertel read with their 15-month-old son Damien, on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 in their Hebron, Ky. home. (Photo: AP Images / The Enquirer, Carrie Cochran)

Although most parents say they are trying to improve their parenting skills, few look to the Bible or church for guidance, a new study shows.

A majority of parents (60 percent) heavily rely on their own experiences growing up for parenting guidance but only one-fifth say they receive a lot of guidance from sacred text such as the Bible or Koran, the latest study by LifeWay Research found. Even fewer parents (15 percent) look to church as a source of guidance for parenting.

The vast majority (96 percent) agree they consistently try to be better parents but more than 6 in 10 completely ignore parenting seminars and over half don't care for books by religious parenting experts, according to the study.

"Parents claim they are trying hard to be better parents but they are not welcoming outside guidance or advice," said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"The only source of advice that a majority of parents use a lot is their own experience. It’s as if parents are collectively reverting to a popular toddler saying, ‘I will do it myself!'" said McConnell, co-author of a new book called The Parent Adventure.

The study also found that few (14 percent) say they are familiar with biblical teaching on parenting. Among Christian parents, those with evangelical beliefs are more familiar than Protestant parents on the Bible's parenting advice, 52 to 27 percent. Only 7 percent of Catholic parents are very familiar on what the Holy Book says about parenting.

"Christians are routinely neglecting biblical guidance and encouragement in their parenting today, relying instead on their own personal experience," McConnell commented.

When it comes to the home environment, around 7 in 10 parents describe it as supporting, positive, encouraging and active. However, an estimated 6 in 10 do not find their home environment peaceful, nearly 5 in 10 do not describe it as relaxed, and around 4 in 10 do not say it is joyful.

They study also showed that although parents spend time with their families on a daily basis, many do not engage in spiritual activities.

A modest majority of parents (57 percent) usually eat dinner together with their families everyday and 45 percent indicate they watch television together each day.

Prayer is a more common family activity than religious study, with 53 percent of parents indicating they pray together at least once monthly compared to 31 percent saying they hold religious devotionals or studies together at least monthly.

Over 80 percent of parents say they have an excellent family life but 30 percent rate their family's spiritual life as only fair or poor.

Overall, 92 percent of parents say they need encouragement but not many receive it from the Bible or church, the study showed.

Approximately 38 percent of parents who attend religious worship services weekly say they do not receive any encouragement from reading the Bible and 24 percent report not being encouraged from church.

Among Christian parents, Catholics (85 percent) are more likely than Protestants (43 percent) to not find encouragement in the Bible. Catholic parents (71 percent) are also more likely than Protestant parents (39 percent) to say church is not a source of encouragement.

Lifeway Research findings are based on a national survey conducted among 1,200 parents with children under 18 at home.