The Family Environment as a Determinant of Religious and Spiritual Change in Students and Their Parents Following a Post High School Year of Study in Israel
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The purpose of this study was to determine some of the causes of the religious and spiritual changes that Orthodox Jewish youth seem to be experiencing as a result of their post high school year of study in Israel. Specific family factors that might influence the future religious and spiritual choices these students make were analyzed. In addition, the notion of bidirectional value transmission was explored to ascertain if the spiritual and religious change in Orthodox Jewish students affects the parent population. The student sample consisted of 598 (319 female and 279 male) graduates of Modern Orthodox Jewish high schools who were studying in Israel for the year. The parent sample consisted of 139 parents who responded and completed surveys. The family atmosphere was measured utilizing the Family Environment Scale (FES), specifically utilizing the subscales of cohesion, expressiveness, conflict, organization and control. The Israel Experience Questionnaire (IEQ) was constructed to address the descriptive and qualitative elements pertaining to the year in Israel. This measure was utilized to determine whether students believed that they deviated, and if so to what degree, both spiritually and religiously from their parents. The Family Attitudes and Responses (FAR) questionnaire was developed to build upon the year in Israel study that was previously conducted. This measure aimed to determine from the parent's perspective if their children deviated both spiritually and religiously, and if so to what degree, as well as whether they believed that they, themselves, had shifted spiritually and religiously as a result of their child's year of study in Israel. Results from a series of bivariate correlations and multiple regressions did not confirm the hypothesis that family factors would play a role in the spiritual and religious development of students, as none of the family factors were significantly correlated with child religiosity. It was further hypothesized that the religious change experienced by Students returning from a year of study in Israel would affect the religious and spiritual commitments of their parents. Correlations and multiple regressions partially supported this hypothesis, however, not in the expected direction. It was discovered that when parents report more religious observance changes in their children, they report less spirituality and religious observance in their own lives. A series of twenty hierarchical multiple regressions informed us that parent reports of child changes in spirituality and cohesion, as well as parent reports of child changes in religious observance and cohesion, were significantly correlated. Follow-up analyses done for the two significant interactions indicated that the relations were maximized at high levels of Cohesion and minimized at low levels of Cohesion. The results confirm that the religious changes experienced by students after a year of study in Israel will affect their parents' religious commitments. Specifically, parents whose families are more cohesive will become less spiritual and religious when their children become more observant.