Study: Mothers Spiritually Active; Fathers Lag Behind

Mothers are among the most spiritually active segments of the America population, a new study found. They also outpace fathers in spiritual activity and commitment for the most part.
( [email protected] ) May 07, 2007 05:48 PM EDT

Mothers are among the most spiritually active segments of the America population, a new study found. They also outpace fathers in spiritual activity and commitment for the most part.

The Barna research group revealed that three-quarters of women who are raising children said faith is very important in their life while only two-thirds of fathers agreed. The majority of mothers also said they have been greatly transformed by their faith compared to less than half of fathers.

Additionally, mothers were more likely than fathers to be born-again Christians, to say they are absolutely committed to Christianity, and to embrace a personal responsibility to share their faith in Jesus Christ with others.

"Whether they are a parent or not, women in America have high levels of spiritual sensitivity and engagement. Men generally lag behind the spirituality of women and particularly so if they are not a father," said David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group and director of the study in the report. "In other words, having children intensifies the spiritual commitment of men, but even so most fathers still do not measure up to the spiritual footprint of their parenting counterparts."

In a typical week, mothers are more likely than are fathers to attend church, pray, read the Bible, participate in a small group, attend Sunday school, and volunteer some of their time to help a non-profit organization, the study showed. Fathers were only equally active with mothers when it came to volunteering to help at a church.

The Barna study further measured differences between younger and older mothers. Moms from the Buster generation (ages 23-41) show less passion for spirituality and less commitment to Christianity than moms from the Boomer generation (ages 42-60). Young moms are less likely to volunteer to help at a church, to read the Bible or to attend worship services at a church and they are less inclined to describe their faith as very important in their life compared to Boomer moms.

"One of the trends we have been monitoring is the erosion of commitment among young Americans toward Christianity and traditional expressions of faith," said Kinnaman. "Buster moms are in the crux of that challenge, being much more spiritually minded than young dads, but still wrestling with the Christian faith in ways Boomers did not. If moms are the spiritual backbone of families today – and they often are – it is imperative to find new approaches that help moms connect faith and family, especially for young mothers."

Most Buster moms are currently married, but three out of ten are not and one-sixth have never been married, which is double the proportion found among Boomer moms. On a further note, the study found that among even younger moms – ages 18-22 – four out of five are not married. That shows how millions of young moms do not have the support of a husband when parenting, the study noted.

"Still, moms of every generation deserve an enormous amount of credit for empowering the spiritual pursuits of their family and, in turn, energizing faith in America," Kinnaman stated. "Compared to men, women are more likely to communicate about faith, prioritize activities that develop their faith and that of their children, and they are more vulnerable about their needs and emotions.

"There is still room for growth among moms,” noted the report director, however. “Church leaders and parents still need to focus on outcomes and the depth of their parenting efforts. Yet our nation would not be the same without the significant spiritual influence of mothers. Imagine the impact on our society if fathers were to simply match the intensity of their parenting peers."

An earlier study by the research group showed that parenting based on one's faith in God produced the most desired outcomes for Christian children exemplifying Christian morals and attitudes.

The latest Barna study is based on ten nationwide surveys on 10,035 adults, age 18 and older, conducted from January 2005 through January 2007.