Review of Religious Research

, Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 615–628 | Cite as

The Effects of R-Rated Movies on Adolescent and Young Adult Religiosity: Media as Self-Socialization

  • Phil DavignonEmail author
Original Paper


Arnett (J Youth Adolesc 24:519–533, 1995) has suggested that media are a form of self-socialization, meaning that people choose the media they consume and in turn become socialized into certain beliefs and values. Research has suggested that viewing R-rated movies may lead to decreases in religiosity (Barry et al. in J Adult Deviance 19:66–78, 2012), but the direction of causality in this study is questionable. This research improves upon Barry, Padilla-Walker, and Nelson’s study by including control variables for peer and family influence while utilizing panel data for longitudinal data analysis. Findings from the 2003, 2005, and 2007–2008 waves of the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) suggest that viewing R-rated movies does indeed lead to decreases in church attendance and salience of religious faith, but it does not influence certainty and selective acceptance of religious beliefs. These results are discussed in light of self-socialization and their implications for how future studies might examine the relationship between R-rated movies and religiosity.


Adolescent religiosity Religious socialization Emerging adulthood 


  1. Ammerman, Nancy. 2003. Religious identities and religious institutions. In Handbook of the sociology of religion, ed. Michele Dillon, 207–224. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armet, Stephen. 2009. Religious socialization and identity formation of adolescents in high tension religions. Review of Religious Research 50(3): 277–297.Google Scholar
  3. Arnett, Jeffery J. 1995. Adolescents’ uses of media for self-socialization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 24: 519–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arnett, Jeffery J. 2007. Socialization in emerging adulthood: From the family for the wider world, from socialization to self-socialization. In Handbook of socialization: Theory and research, ed. Joan E. Grusec, and Paul D. Hastings, 208–231. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  5. Arnett, Jeffrey J., and Lynn A. Jensen. 2002. A congregation of one: Individualized religious beliefs among emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research 17: 451–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bader, Christopher D., and Scott A. Desmond. 2006. Do as I say and as I do: The effects of consistent parental beliefs and behaviors upon religious transmission. Sociology of Religion 67: 313–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baker, Joseph, and Buster G. Smith. 2009. The nones: Social characteristics of the religiously unaffiliated. Social Forces 87(3): 1251–1264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barry, Carolyn McNamara, Larry Nelson, and Sahar Davarya. 2010. Religiosity and spirituality during the transition to adulthood. International Journal of Behavioral Development 34(4): 311–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barry, Carolyn M., Laura M. Padilla-Walker, and Larry J. Nelson. 2012. The role of mothers and media on emerging adults’ religious faith and practices by way of internalization of prosocial values. Journal of Adult Deviance 19: 66–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berger, Helen A., and Douglas Ezzy. 2009. Mass media and religious identity: A case study of young witches. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 48(3): 501–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bobkowski, Piotr S. 2009. Adolescent religiosity and selective exposure to television. Journal of Media and Religion 8: 55–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown, Jane D. 2006. Emerging adults in a media-saturated world. In Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the twenty-first century, ed. Jeffery J. Arnett, and Jennifer L. Tanner, 279–299. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clark, Lynn. 2003. From angels to aliens: Teenagers, the media, and the supernatural. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Clydesdale, Timothy. 2007. The first year out. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Denton, Melinda Lundquist. 2012. Family structure, family disruption, and profiles of adolescent religiosity. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51(1): 42–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Desmond, Scott A., Kristopher H. Morgan, and George Kikuchi. 2010. Religious development: How (and why) does religiosity change from adolescence to young adulthood? Sociological Perspectives 53(2): 247–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Desrosiers, Alethea, Brian S. Kelley, and Lisa Miller. 2011. Parent and peer relationships and relational spirituality in adolescents and young adults. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 3(1): 39–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ellison, Christopher G., Anthony B. Walker, Norval D. Glenn, and Elizabeth Marquardt. 2011. The effects of parental marital discord and divorce on the religious and spiritual lives of young adults. Social Science Research 40(2): 538–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Erickson, Joseph A. 1992. Adolescent religious development and commitment: a structural equation model of the role of family, peergroup, and educational influences. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 31(2): 131–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gunnoe, Marjorie L., and Kristin A. Moore. 2002. Predictors of religiosity among youth aged 17–22: A longitudinal study of the National Survey of Children. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41: 613–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hill, Jonathan P. 2011. Faith and understanding: Specifying the impact of higher education on religious belief. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 50(3): 533–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hoover, Stuart. 2006. Religion in the media age. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Hosmer, David W., and Stanley Lemeshow. 2000. Applied logistic regression. New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Larson, R., and M.H. Richards. 1994. Divergent realities: The emotional lives of mother, fathers, and adolescents. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  25. Martin, Todd F., James M. White, and Daniel Perlman. 2003. Religious socialization: A test of the channeling hypothesis of parental influence on adolescent faith maturity. Journal of Adolescent Research 18(2): 169–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mayrl, Damon, and Jeremy E. Uecker. 2011. Higher education and religious liberalization among young adults. Social Forces 90(1): 181–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McFarland, Michael J., Bradley R.E. Wright, and David L. Weakliem. 2011. Educational attainment and religiosity: Exploring variations by religious tradition. Sociology of Religion 72(2): 166–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Myers, Scott M. 1996. An interactive model of religiosity inheritance: The importance of family context. American Sociological Review 61(5): 858–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nelson, Larry J., Laura M. Padilla-Walker, and Jason S. Carroll. 2010. “I believe it is wrong but I still do it”: A comparison of religious young men who do versus do not use pornography. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 2(3): 136–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse X: Teens and Parents. 2005. Conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Accessed November 28, 2012 at
  31. Padilla-Walker, Laura M., Larry J. Nelson, Jason S. Carroll, and Alexander C. Jensen. 2010. More than just a game: Video game and internet use during emerging adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 39: 103–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Petts, Richard J. 2009. Trajectories of religious participation from adolescence to young adulthood. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 48(3): 552–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Petts, Richard J. 2011. Parental religiosity, religious homogamy, and young children’s well-being. Sociology of Religion 72(4): 389–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Potvin, Raymond H., and Douglas M. Stone. 1985. Parental control, age, and religious practice. Review of Religious Research 27(1): 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Regnerus, Mark D., Christian Smith, and Brad Smith. 2004. Social context in the development of adolescent religiosity. Applied Developmental Science 8: 27–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Regenerus, Mark D., and Jeremy E. Uecker. 2006. Finding faith, losing faith: The prevalence and context of religious transformations during adolescence. Review of Religious Research 47(3): 217–237.Google Scholar
  37. Reimer, Sam. 2012. Higher education and theological liberalism: Revisiting the old issue. Sociology of Religion 71(4): 393–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schwartz, Kelly D. 2006. Transformations in parent and friend faith support predicting adolescents’ religious faith. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 16(4): 311–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, Christian, and Melinda Lundquist Denton. 2005. Soul searching: The religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. New York: Oxford Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Smith, Christian, and Patricia Snell. 2009. Souls in transition: The religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults. New York: Oxford Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Steensland, Brian, Jerry Z. Park, Mark D. Regnerus, Lynn D. Robinson, W.Bradford Wilcox, and Robert D. Woodberry. 2000. The measure of American religion: Toward improving the state of the art. Social Forces 79(1): 291–318.Google Scholar
  42. Tanski, Susanne E., Sonya Dal Cin, Mike Stoolmiller, and James D. Sargent. 2010. Parental R-rated movie restriction and early-onset alcohol use. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 71(3): 452–460.Google Scholar
  43. Titus-Ernstoff, L., M.A. Dalton, A.M. Adachi-Mejia, M.R. Longacre, and M.L. Beach. 2008. Longitudinal study of viewing smoking in movies and initiation of smoking by children. Pediatrics 121: 15–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Uecker, Jeremy E. 2008. Alternative schooling strategies and the religious lives of American adolescents. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 47(4): 563–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Uecker, Jeremy E. 2009. Catholic schooling, protestant schooling, and religious commitment in young adulthood. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 48(2): 353–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Uecker, Jeremy E., and Christopher G. Ellison. 2012. Parental divorce, parental religious characteristics, and religious outcomes in adulthood. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51(4): 777–794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Uecker, Jeremy E., Mark D. Regnerus, and Margaret L. Vaaler. 2007. Losing my religion: The social sources of religious decline in early adulthood. Social Forces 85(4): 1667–1692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Vaidyanathan, Brandon. 2011. Religious resources or differential returns? Early religious socialization and declining attendance in emerging adulthood. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 50(2): 366–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Religious Research Association, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Baylor UniversityWacoUSA

Personalised recommendations