Counseling Department


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


John C. Thomas


deconversion, emerging adult, millennial, parent/parenting, prodigal, spiritual, maturity


Counseling | Religion


Scant research has focused on possible parental factors behind increasing rates of disengagement by millennial emerging adults (18- to 25-years-old) in church attendance and other traditional Christian practices. Cluster, quota, and convenience samples of emerging adults (N = 266) who had identified with Christian practices in high school were recruited from social media, Web sites for religious doubt, and various universities and churches across America. Independent sample t tests and regression analyses were performed to explore the effect of selected parent variables (as perceived by the emerging adult child) on the child’s self-reported spiritual maturity (measured by a spiritual assessment inventory). Parental religious emphasis in the home, emotional availability, authority style, sincere spirituality, and forgivingness as well as continuance of extrinsic Christian practices significantly predicted emerging adult spiritual maturity. In-home religious emphasis and an authoritarian disciplinary style most strongly predicted an emerging adult’s awareness of God and acceptance of God’s actions. Religious emphasis in the home strongly predicted continuance of religiosity into emerging adulthood. Parent attributes appear important to developing spiritual maturity in emerging adults. Separate assessments of mothers and fathers may further discover factors in emerging adults’ spiritual maturity.