Moxley, E. F. (2018). On fire for God: Exploring adolescent religious development. The Young Researcher, 2 (1), 5-14.
High school students are navigating new social relationships and milestones; in this process, they may be forced to reevaluate their own religious identity. This research study asked the question, “How do adolescents ages 16-18 view their own religious development in a time when they have gained greater autonomy from their parents, and what factors do they see as most important in forming their own religious identity?” Through a series of half-hour phenomenological interviews with six carefully selected students, this study seeks a better understanding of those factors influencing the religious identity of adolescents. Interview questions were aimed at finding shifts in the participants’ religious identity in adolescence. The study is a critical investigation as it allows for a better understanding of what kind of events, people, or institutions are most influential in a young person’s life. Data analysis revealed four distinct themes: community, personal relationships, education, and morality. I examine those themes and show how they reveal that late adolescence is a time of complex identity development. My principal conclusion is that adolescents are active agents in their development of religious identity. They use the messages they receive from outside sources to inform their own choices about their religious identity and the role that religion plays in their lives.
Keywords: religious development, adolescents, socialization, autonomy