About a third (35%) of U.S. parents with children under 18 say it’s extremely or very important to them that their kids have similar religious beliefs to their own as adults, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. But attitudes on this question vary by the religious affiliation of the parents.
White evangelical Protestant parents are twice as likely as U.S. parents overall (70% vs. 35%) to say it’s extremely or very important that their children grow up to have religious beliefs that are similar to their own. Some 53% of Black Protestant parents also express this view. Fewer Catholic (35%) and White non-evangelical Protestant parents (29%) say this is extremely or very important to them. And only 8% of religiously unaffiliated parents – those who describe their religious views as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – say the same.
The survey was conducted among Americans of all religious backgrounds, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, but it did not obtain enough respondents from non-Christian groups to report separately on their responses. (Read more about why the Center typically can’t report the views of smaller U.S. religious groups.)
Views on this question also differ by how frequently parents attend religious services. Parents who attend religious services weekly or more often are more than three times as likely as those who attend less often to say it’s important to raise children who will share their religious views (76% vs. 21%).
Overall, parents are more likely to say it’s important that their children share their religious beliefs as adults than to say the same about their kids’ political views. Just 16% of parents say it’s extremely or very important that their children grow up to have political views that are similar to their own.
Religious differences also appear on other questions related to parents’ hopes for their children, according to the Center survey, which was conducted in the fall of 2022 among 3,757 U.S. parents with children under 18.
For example, 81% of parents overall say it’s extremely or very important for their children to grow up to become people who help others in need. White evangelical Protestant parents are especially likely to say this (89%). Slightly smaller majorities of parents from other religious backgrounds, including 81% of Catholics and 76% of the religiously unaffiliated, hold this view.
Most parents (80%) also say it’s extremely or very important for their children to grow up to be accepting of people who are different from them. On this question, parents with no religious affiliation (85%) are slightly more likely than Catholics (79%) and Protestants (76%) to see this trait as important.
Parents overall are about evenly split on whether they are trying to raise their children similarly (43%) or differently (44%) from how they were raised themselves. When asked in an open-ended question in the fall 2022 survey about specific ways they are raising their children, many parents pointed to values and religion. Among parents who said they are raising their children similarly to their own upbringing, 63% pointed to values and religion, but only 13% of parents who are trying a different parenting approach cited these factors.
A substantial share (17%) of parents who are raising their children similarly to how they were raised mentioned religion, specifically. These parents often pointed to ideas such as passing along their religious beliefs and prioritizing faith, just as their parents had done for them.
For example, one 42-year-old mother said, “I was raised in a very religious family, and I want my children to share the same faith.” And a 41-year-old father said, “I am raising my kids with a strong Christian foundation. I strive to live my life as an example of good, godly values for my kids. I impart in them the importance of love, family and fellowship.”
Among parents who said they are trying to raise their children differently from how they were raised, by comparison, 7% specifically mentioned religion in their open-ended answers. Some said they are incorporating religion into their child’s upbringing when it had been absent from their own.
Others said the opposite – that they are intentionally raising their children with less religious involvement than they grew up with. One 44-year-old mother said, “I am not taking my kid to the church, and I am trying to teach my kid to be open and friendly to people ‘different’ than her.”