Religious reference groups and the persistence of normative behavior: An empirical test

Alden E. Roberts, Jerome R. Koch, D. Paul Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Reference groups and significant others are vitally important in both the formation and the persistence or change of normative as well as deviant behavior patterns. Thus one’s initial religious beliefs and behavior (or lack thereof) reflect the socializing influence of the family. However, the situation may change when young people leave home for education or work, as demonstrated by research that shows decreases in religious beliefs or church attendance when young people leave home to attend college. In contrast to the pattern whereby religiosity declines in a college or university environment, we maintain that students who develop close ties with others who are religious, especially in a highly religious community, will maintain the same patterns of high commitment developed in their families. Specifically, we hypothesize that religious beliefs and participation will be positively related to (1) parents’ religious beliefs and practices and (2) current friends’ religious beliefs and participation. These hypotheses were tested with a sample of college students living on campus (n = 339). The data support the argument that students’ current religious beliefs and behavior are related to both their parents’ religiosity and the reinforcing effects of the religiosity of their current friends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-98
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Spectrum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2001


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