Does it harm the children? Studies have found religious participation is good for people. Among adolescents, it increases self esteem, improves grades and keeps them from drugs and alcohol. So logically, it would seem, kids from intermarried couples would fare worse.
At least that is what two researchers at Ohio State though. With intermarriage all the rage, particularly with Jews, they published a study last month having expected the kids of “religious heterogamy” to suffer. But they found that the kids didn’t have lower self esteem, grades or life satisfaction. (The same can’t be said for the drug use.) Christianity Today has an online interview with one of the researchers.
When you ran the numbers, some of the negative anticipated effects of having parents with different religions didn’t seem to be present. Do you have an opinion as to why?
This finding was especially surprising to us, because we figured that internalized well-being (such as self-esteem) would be more affected by religious heterogamy because youth would be less sure about beliefs and [would likely have] a weaker sense of identity.
I suspect that part of the reason that we did not find negative effects [in those areas] is that being raised in a religiously heterogamous family may actually be beneficial to youth in some ways. If interfaith parents teach their children that it is important to find a religion that best suits them [as individuals] and accept religious differences in others, then youth may actually develop a strong sense of identity and have an opportunity to find out which religious beliefs are important to them.
In addition, being raised in a diverse family is likely to increase one’s tolerance and acceptance of others. These benefits likely have a greater effect on outcomes like self-esteem, life satisfaction, and school performance than delinquency, which may explain the results of our study.