Christians are far more likely to say their mothers had a bigger influence on their faith than did their fathers, according to a new Barna study that examines the roles that moms and dads play in the development of children.
The study found that 68 percent of U.S. Christians who grew up with someone who influenced their faith say their mother’s faith impacted them. That was followed by the father (46 percent) and a grandparent (37 percent).
That pattern also was found among Christian teens, who are more likely to say they have prayed with or talked about God with their mom in the past month than with their father.
The research was conducted in 2018 and is part of a new book, Households of Faith.
“We are incredibly good as churches at supporting, empowering and encouraging motherhood, and encouraging mothers to take that active role in their children’s faith lives,” Barna’s Roxanne Stone said last month when the research was unveiled. “It seems that we're falling behind on how we are supporting and empowering fathers to really become a part of the spiritual guidance, as well as the emotional guidance for their children.”
Christian teens are more likely to say their mother: “encourages me to go to church,” “talks with me about God’s forgiveness” and “teaches me about the Bible,” the research shows. Christian teens also are more likely to go to their mother than their father for encouragement, advice and sympathy. Fathers edge ahead only in three categories: when teens need money, when they need logistical help, and when they want a parent to play sports.
Stone said “over and over and over again” throughout the study researcher saw “the outsized impact that mothers have, both on their children's spiritual formation as well as their character development.”
“Unfortunately, the same really did not hold true for fathers in this study,” she said. “It became apparent as we explored the research, that practicing Christians just don't really seem to share a lot of quality time with their fathers, compared to other immediate and even sometimes extended household ties.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.