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Identity Formation Experiences of Church-Attending Rural Adolescents

NCJ Number
Journal of Adolescent Research Volume: 22 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2007 Pages: 387-412
Marie Good; Teena Willoughby
Date Published
July 2007
26 pages
This study examined how rural culture might influence the way in which religiously committed adolescents experience identity construction.
Analysis of the interview data indicated that there were clear differences between the church group and the control group. For the church-attending adolescents, religion appeared to be a particularly significant feature of their identity construction stories. The church attendees appeared to have made personal decisions to become committed to their faith, and their beliefs seemed to be maintained and expressed through relationships with Christian role models and participation in faith-based extracurricular activities. In contrast, although the control group participants felt supported by and connected to their families, they did not express a great deal of connectedness to their community, rather, they stated that they wanted to migrate from their rural hometown to pursue careers in urban centers. The contrast between the two groups illustrates that feelings of connectedness to societal institutions other than the family may impact upon the identities of young people via the goals that they set for their lives. Connectedness with a church may encourage an adolescent to remain within his or her community and choose an occupation accordingly. The results suggest that differences between urban and rural adolescents in identity-related domains may be, in fact, a product of religious rather than geographical factors. Several prior studies have found that church attendance is positively related to identity achievement, foreclosure, and fidelity, thereby, providing support for the idea that religiously committed adolescents are more likely than youth without such commitments to occupy a committed identity status. Utilizing 22 adolescents living in a rural community, half committed members of a local church and the other half having never attended church, this study accessed adolescents’ voices regarding the impact of religiosity on everyday experiences of identity construction. Appendix and references