National context, parental socialization and the varying relationship between religious belief and practice

David Voas, Ingrid Storm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parents are crucial agents of religious socialization, but the broader social environment is also influential. A key question is whether parents are more or less influential when their religious beliefs and practices are not shared by people around them. Current thinking on the issue has largely been shaped by Kelley and De Graaf, who argued that parental religious socialization matters most in secular countries. We maintain that that conclusion is mistaken: levels of parental and national religiosity are both important, but their effects are largely independent of each other. Kelley and De Graaf's findings rely on the assumption that religious belief and practice are different expressions of the same underlying phenomenon (religiosity) and vary in the same way across time and space. These measures are not equivalent, however. In relatively religious societies, belief in God is widespread even among those who do not attend services, whereas in societies where religious involvement is low, nonchurchgoers tend to be nonbelievers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Early online date3 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

David Voas received funding from the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council via the Research Centre on Micro‐Social Change (MiSoC). Ingrid Storm received funding from the British Academy as a postdoctoral research fellow.


  • religion
  • religiosity
  • secular
  • parents
  • intergenerational transmission


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