A Comparison of the Religious Values of College Students in High School Verses College
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
MCGOWEN, A. -. (2001). A Comparison of the Religious Values of College Students in High School Verses College. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 21, 2017 .

A Comparison of the Religious Values of College Students in High School Verses College
ANGELA C. MCGOWEN
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY NEW ORLEANS PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: MUKUL BHALLA (bhalla@loyno.edu)
ABSTRACT
Some parents spend years attempting to bestow religious values onto their children. The children are sometimes subjected to religious services, programs, and religious doctrine, but how many continue to practice their beliefs once they have left the parental home? We conducted a study using 30 women and 20 male undergraduates. A questionnaire containing fifteen statements about the participant`s religiosity during high school and also as college students was administered. Along with past research, we too predicted that there would be a significant decline in the religiosity of these young adults. The results yielded no over all significant change in religious values over the two time periods. However, there were significant findings regarding the statements of regularly attending a place of worship, depending on a supreme being, and believing in a religious dichotomy.

INTRODUCTION
Some parents spend years attempting to bestow religious values onto their children. They are sometimes subjected to church services, programs, and religious doctrines, but how many of us continue to practice our beliefs once we have left the parental home? This research question is important because it sheds light on the religiosity of our youth today. According to Hardon (1967) the entrance into college automatically sets the tone for change. It is only natural that religion will be challenged as well as academics. In a recent opinion poll, college students reported that they had attended church less frequently since moving out of the parental home and also experienced a decline in their beliefs (www.studentadvantage.com). Among college students that are no longer living in the parental home, there is a significant decline in their religious values now versus when they were in high school and living with their parents. Although the direct cause of this decline is not known, past research has speculated that the new found freedom that young adults experience is an important factor. They are no longer obligated to do anything that they do not wish and therefore discontinue practicing the religious values that was laid upon them by their parents. Hastings and Hoge (1976) examined this phenomenon. They surveyed Williams College students by using a questionnaire on religion developed at Harvard University. The questionnaires administered consisted of statements about religious beliefs and related attitudes. They began administering the surveys in April 1948 from a random sample. Two hundred and five questionnaires were returned with a 96 % completion rate. In April 1967 the same questionnaire was once again administered and then delivered to a random sample. A total of two hundred and six questionnaires were returned for a completion rate of 93 %. In March 1974 the questionnaire was again given to a random sample of undergraduates. Two hundred and ten were returned for a completion rate of 91 %. From the three questionnaires, Hastings and Hoge concluded that the percentage of students that rejected home religious values increased from 1948 to 1974. Church participation and positive attitudes toward the church decreased from 1948 to 1974. They also concluded that the separation from the church was mostly due to greater individualism once the college student has lived on their own. Research by Hunsberger (1978) also supports this notion. The difference in the religious values of college students when in high school and their values today was investigated. The researcher conducted a non-experimental study where 311 freshmen and 146 seniors attending the University of Manitoba were asked to answer a series of statements. The questionnaire included statements of doubt of religious beliefs, extent of reaction to religious practices and observations taught, extent to which religious beliefs learned as a child are still held, extent to which one continues to accept these beliefs, and frequency of church attendance and prayer. The main findings of this research support the liberation hypothesis. Hunsberger found that religious values declined the longer the college student lived on their own. Seniors reported attending church less frequently than freshman. Seniors also reported a less orthodox belief in the Bible. The author also speculates that this change in religious values may have actually occurred during the high school years, but it was not acted upon until the college student was free from parental influence. Madsen and Vernon (1983) conducted similar research. They also stated that religious changes in college students include a decline in religious values, increased skepticism about God, and the church. The researchers administered a questionnaire to a sample of high school graduates just before entering their freshman year in college and again during the spring of their senior year. Over 90 % of the students attended the University of Utah; the other 10 % attended Utah State University. Religiosity was measured with Faulkner and DeJong`s (1966) Religiosity in 5-D scale and Thurstone and Chave`s (1929) Attitude Toward the Church Scale. Like the findings of Hunsberger, Madsen and Vernon concluded that there was a significant decrease in traditional religiosity in both scales used by the researchers. They also concluded that as education increased, the level of religiosity tended to decrease. The research of Madsen and Vernon also found a positive correlation between college friendships that are linked to religious organizations and the continuation of religious values. This correlation suggests the importance of peer relations in maintaining religious values. Our research study continued along the lines of these researchers. We too hypothesized that there was a relationship between the religious values of college students and leaving the parental home. The difference in our study was that we wished to examine these phenomena in a religious based school such as Loyola. This study aimed to take the past research a step further by examining whether there was a decline of religious values in students that attend a college that prides itself on religious beliefs and values. We wished to examine if the religious affiliation of the school would have an impact on whether the students continued to practice their religious values. We conducted our research in relatively the same fashion as those previously stated, where a questionnaire created by the researchers measured students` religious values. The questionnaire consisted of fifteen questions that examined the participant`s belief in a supreme being, prayer beliefs, and life after death, and attendance to their place of worship. They were asked to record how they felt about these concepts in high school and how they feel about these concepts now. Our sample consisted of fifty Loyola University students that no longer lived in their parental homes. Although, the students that attend this university are predominately Catholic, we predict there will still be an overall decline in religious values.


METHOD
Participants The participants in our study were fifty students from Loyola University. The participant breakdown consisted of thirty women and twenty men. The sample was obtained by convenience sampling. We were specifically interested in students that were no longer living in the parental home. There was no specific age or sex requirement and the participants participated strictly on a voluntary basis. The participants were recruited from various psychology courses. Materials The materials used were a questionnaire containing fifteen statements about the participant`s religious values in high school as well as college. The participants were given the same questionnaire statements on two different sheets of paper. The first sheet was distinctly marked "High School Values" while the second was marked "College Values". On the first sheet, the participants were instructed to rate a statement according to how they felt about the concept in high school. They were asked to rate their feelings on a scale of one to four with four being of the highest value. The participants were then asked to perform the same rating task on the next sheet except this time they were to rate how they felt about those same concepts now that they are in college and out of the parental home. A standard classroom was the area where the questionnaire was completed. There were also pencils provided by us in case the participant came unprepared. Before the questionnaire was administered, the participants were given consent forms explaining our research and the purpose of our study. The form also explained that they were free to ask any questions concerning our research and that they could withdraw from the study at any time. The participants were also informed that this information was confidential, meaning that only the researchers will have access to their identity.Design and ProcedureThe research conducted was a pretest post test comparison to determine whether the participant`s values from High School declined once they entered College. The researchers requested that the Psychology faculty announce to their classes that a project that wishes to document Loyola students` religious values from high school versus their present religious values needs volunteers to participate in a study. Religious values were defined as one`s believe in a higher being, their belief about prayer, church authority (priests, rabbi, etc), and life after death. It was also emphasized that the study was strictly for those students living outside of the parental home while in college. Living outside the parental home was defined as not living with parents (your own apartment, dorm room, living with friends). As part of a control procedure the participants were tested in groups and in one standard classroom on campus. We preferred to test them in groups because we wanted the participants to feel comfortable versus having the feeling of being singled out or intimidated by having only them and the researchers present. We also used one standard classroom in order to ensure that everyone that participated had the same testing atmosphere. The temperature was exactly the same for all testing groups. The volunteers and researchers met at the assigned classroom on the testing day. Once the participants were seated comfortably, they were given informed consent forms to read and sign. They were asked not to put their names anywhere on the questionnaire. It was then explained that this information was confidential which meant that the information provided would be shared, but no names will be used. The participants were allowed thirty minutes to perform this task. Once the questionnaire was completed, the participants were debriefed. They were informed that if any questions made them feel uncomfortable or if they had any questions about the questionnaire, the researchers would be more than happy to either speak with them privately or refer them to a professional for assistance.


RESULTS
A two-sample t-test within subjects design compared the mean high school religious values (M=2.92, SD=.99) when the young adult lived in the parental home with the mean college religious values (M=2.82, SD=1.02) when the young adults were living outside the parental home. This test was found to be statistically insignificant, suggesting that there was no significant decline in religious values between the two time periods (t(49) = .88, p= .45). However when individual statements were looked at, we did find significant declines. The statement on regularly attending a place of worship,(M = 2.82, SD= 1.21),(t(49) = 2.84, p = .007), showed evidence that our hypothesis was correct. The statements on Supreme Being and religious dichotomy between good and evil also yielded significant results, (M =3.28, SD = .93), (t(49) = 2.19, p = .033)and(M =3.12, SD= .94),(t(49) =2.112, p= .040). This suggests that there was a decline in religious values for attending a place of worship in high school(M =2.82, SD = 1.21),(t(49) = 2.84, p=.007),compared to college (M =2.44,SD = 1.1),(t(49) =2.84, p=.007). For the statement of depending on a supreme being , there was also a significant decline from high school (M =3.28, SD = .93),t(49) = 2.19, p=.033), to college(M =3.0, SD =1.03),(t(49) = 2.19, p=.033). The same is true for the statement of a dichotomy between good and evil. It declined from(M =3.12, SD =.99), (t(49) =2.11, p=.040),to(M =2.9, SD =.99),(t(49) =2.11, p=.040).


DISCUSSION
There was no support for the original hypothesis that religious values decline as young adults move away from the parental home. Although there was relationship overall, there was a significant decline for church attendance, belief in a supreme being, and belief in a religious dichotomy between good and evil. Our research was modeled on that of Madsen and Vernon (1983), who took a sample of high school seniors and administered to them a questionnaire containing statements about their religiosity. They then used the same participants in their senior year of college and issued them the same questionnaire. From this within-subjects design, Madsen and Vernon came to the conclusion that religious values significantly decline the longer the student is away from the parental home. The researchers came to this conclusion because of the drastic numbers between the initial questionnaire given in high school and the questionnaire that was completed once the subjects were in their senior year of college. Madsen and Vernon also speculated that the decline in religious values may have actually occurred in high school, but was not acted upon until college when the student was free from parental influence. Research by Hunsberger (1978) also yielded very similar results to that of Madsen and Vernon. He also administered a questionnaire to a group of college students. The questionnaire contained statements regarding doubt, religious beliefs, and belief in a higher being. From this, Hunsberger concluded that seniors attended church less frequently than did freshmen. He also concluded that seniors reported a less orthodox belief in the Bible. Also, in an opinion poll, (www.studentadvantage.com), some students reported not attending church as frequently as they did when they were living at home with their parents. Most felt that being away from the parental home gave them an opportunity to explore new things and question old ones. It was mostly the student avantage opinion poll that mostly persuaded us in our hypothesis. During the data collecting process, we did incur problems with our study such as the participants not following directions and waiting until either my partner or I read the directions aloud. We also had problems with people not understanding that the two questionnaires were for two different time periods in their life. We think this problem was due to people beginning the questionnaire before having the directions read to them first. Other than these things, the process went smoothly. From the findings of this research we think that it is important for parents to know that in at least a religious affiliated school such as Loyola University, religious values tend to increase than when their children were living at home. It is also important for those parents that specifically choose religious based schools for their children to know that the influence of these schools does have a positive effect on their children. I believe our research can be improved by looking into a non-religious affiliated university to determine if the religious affiliation with the school had anything to do with our hypothesis being false. The religious affiliation may be very important because some students may attend Loyola because of its religious orientation and may want to be more involved in religion. Also, the study can be improved by looking at the three concepts previously stated and figure out what causes the decline in church attendance, belief in a supreme being, and belief in a religious dichotomy. These statements are particularly interesting because the decline did occur at a religious university. It may be because they have moved away from the parental home. If this is the case then maybe or original hypothesis does have some validity. Sex and age are two major components that could improve our study. Although we did not look into these variables, it would be very interesting to investigate the breakdown of which sex would have the lowest decline in religious values. It would also be interesting to see the breakdown of age because according to Madsen and Vernon and Hunsberger, religion tended to decline with the older the person had gotten.


REFERENCES
Hardon, J. A., S.J. (1967). In the hungry nation: Religious attitudes and needs in a state university. Westminster, MD: The Newman Press. Hastings, P. K., Hoge, D. R. (1976). Changes in religion among college students, 1948 to 1974. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 15, 237-249. Hunsberger, B. (1978). The religiously of college students: Stability and change over years at university. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 17, 159-164. Madsen, G. E., Vernon, G. M. (1983). Maintaining the faith during college: a study of campus religious group participation. Review of Religious Research, 25,127-141. Student Advantage (November 2000). Is it possible to hold on to religious beliefs in college. Retrieved February 5, 2001 from Religion and Spirituality database on the World Wide Web:


APPENDIX
Directions:In this questionnaire you will be asked to compare your religious values from high school to your values while you are in college. The questionnaire will consist of the same questions for both time periods. You will be asked to rate your religious values on a simple scale from one to four with one being not a value and four being strongly valued. Simply circle the answer that honestly reflects your values.

High School Values: Not A Value(1), Somewhat Value(2), Value(3), Strongly Value(4)

1. My creator is appealed.1 2 3 4

2. My creator is the creator of the universe. 1 2 3 4

3. My creator is expressed through nature. 1 2 3 4 4. Regularly attend my place of worship. 1 2 3 4 5. Praying/meditation is important. 1 2 3 4 6. Pray/meditate on a daily basis. 1 2 3 4 7. Revere your creator as a savior,the enlightened one, etc. 1 2 3 4 8. Depend upon a supreme being. 1 2 3 4 9. Reading religious material is important. 1 2 3 4 10. Follow religious doctrine. 1 2 3 4 11. Place of worship is an institution for bettering humanity. 1 2 3 4 12. Respect religious authority. 1 2 3 4 13. We are immortal beings, otherwise life is meaningless. 1 2 3 4

14. Believe in life after death.1 2 3 4

15. Believe there is a religious dichotomy between good and evil. 1 2 3 4

College Values: 1. My creator is appealed. 1 2 3 4 2. My creator is the creator of the universe. 1 2 3 4 3. My creator is expressed through nature. 1 2 3 4 4. Regularly attend my place of worship. 1 2 3 4 5. Praying/meditation is important. 1 2 3 4 6. Pray/meditate on a daily basis. 1 2 3 4 7. Revere your creator as a savior, the enlightened one, etc. 1 2 3 4 8. Depend upon a supreme being. 1 2 3 4 9. Reading religious material is important. 1 2 3 4 10. Follow religious doctrine. 1 2 3 4 11. Place of worship is an institution for bettering humanity. 1 2 3 4

12. Respect religious authority. 1 2 3 4 13. We are immortal beings, otherwise life is meaningless. 1 2 3 4 14. Believe in life after death. 1 2 3 4 15. Believe there is a religious dichotomy between good and evil. 1 2 3 4

Age:________Sex: M / FClass Standing: Fr. / Sph. / Jr. / Sr.

Submitted 5/9/01 12:56:08 PM
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