Ascension to Adulthood

As it was my first week on Adulthood Project, I have found my experience thus far to be like dipping my toe in a large pool. The information on adulthood is as vast as it interesting with many aspects to explore and ideas to expand. I am interested in how religion influences the ascension to adulthood, if any, in American culture. As it appears to me, adulthood is more than completing a list of achievements. From what I’ve seen so far, many people agree, often including in their answers notions of “assuming responsibility.” My hypothesis is that religion, whether personal or institutional, gives people a reason to assume that responsibility. While I have yet to find articles that investigate that hypothesis directly, I have found articles that investigate the relative effects of religion on progress toward and perception of adulthood.

An article called The Role of Religion in Transition to Adulthood for Young Adults by Barry and Nelson examined three different higher education institutions based on religious affiliation. They questioned students from one Mormon institution, one Catholic, and one one public with no religious affiliation. Students from the Mormon school signed personal statements abstaining from various activities (drugs, alcohol, sex, etc) and adhering to others (standards of dress and living, values, etc) while students in the Catholic institution were only asked to follow to the student guidelines. Students from the Mormon institution tended to be more adherent to their religion, while students from the Catholic institution were more willing to pick and choose aspects they felt were relevant to their life. Because the transition to adulthood tends to be a volatile process, beliefs and religious adherence tend to get put by the wayside. However, as this article concludes, Mormons were more likely than Catholics from their respective institutions to carry over their dogmatic beliefs into adulthood, likely because of the enforced constraints on the student personal life. What’s more interesting is that Mormon students tended to adopt the opposite values of those from the Catholic and public institutions, adopting “emotional control” and “interdependence” rather than “impulse expression” and “autonomy.”

As the authors note, the students from the Mormon institute reside in an extremely structured moral environment, making the qualifications for being an adult that much clearer. I would be interested in reading further about strict religious adherence as it relates to perceptions of self-worth and successful adulthood. As many aspects of modern society encourage the individual on their own path of self-discovery, it leaves the individual in a constant pursuit of a ever-changing and vague goal. In such an atmosphere, it would not be surprising to find emerging adults fearful, confused, or flat out regret the notion of themselves as adults. I would like to see the contrast between free-thinking and strict religious adherence on the self reported maturity of the individual.