Adolescents were attracted to church for many reasons, including the social network it provided. Many reported switching churches and even denominations because of a particularly endearing pastor, exciting social activities and friendship opportunities. They all also were part of the pre-World War II civic generation of Americans who were highly involved in community activities.
"Our adolescents clearly appreciated the social opportunities for interacting with their peers that church allowed, and, in fact, encouraged," the researchers said. "There were strong expectations that young people would not simply attend Sunday school classes but also actively participate and assume social and leadership responsibilities in mixed-gender young people's societies."
The researchers attribute the drop-off in religiousness in middle-adulthood to parents feeling less pressure to socialize their growing children in religious circles as well as parents encountering increase career responsibilities. "Apparently, as a result of the confluence of children leaving home and newly emerging pressures exerted by work and other activities, our middle-aged participants assigned a lower priority to church involvement. The perceived need for church may also have dimmed because midlife is a time in the life course when individuals tend to see their mortality as still far off," Dillon and Wink said.
Throughout their lives, women consistently were more religious than men. And conservative Protestants (evangelicals) had the highest levels of religiousness when compared to mainline Protestants and Catholics.