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Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood

"Lost in Transition is a groundbreaking, compelling, and deeply necessary look at the challenges facing young people today. Not content to believe tired cliches about the enthusiasm of youth, Christian Smith and colleagues conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of today's emerging adults…” Read More

--Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before

"A balanced and thoroughly-researched examination of the dark side of emerging adulthood.Lost in Transition is public sociology at its finest, and deserves careful reading by anyone who seeks to understand emerging adults in America."

--Tim Clydesdale, author of The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School

"Emerging adulthood is not always a period of 'glory days,' when young people savor the freedom and fun of their youth. With this book, Smith and his colleagues illuminate the darker side of the years from the late teens through the early twenties. Through their adept use of rich, in-depth interviews with 18-23-year-olds, they show the many ways emerging adults struggle to find a meaningful place in the world…” Read More

–Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties"

A Faith of Their Own: Stability and Change in the Religiosity of America’s Adolescents

The National Study of Youth and Religion has produced numerous significant books and articles about the state of adolescent religiosity, and authors Pearce and Denton's most recent contribution is no exception. Studying a group of teenagers, the two sociologists examine how the teens' attitudes about faith change (or don’t) as they get older…”Read More

--From Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

A Faith of Their Own is a terrific and succinct introduction to the NSYR. Its analysis is clear, its exposition is clean, and its interpretative typology merits wide adoption."

--Sociology of Religion

"A Faith of Their Own moves the conversation on adolescent spirituality significantly forward by examining, not a static snapshot of teenagers' religious lives, but the ways in which these lives change during adolescence; the authors' conclusions will surprise and challenge you. Pearce and Denton write with the confidence of people who know, and love, their subjects, making A Faith of Their Own a dynamic, accessible, and often unexpected map of adolescents' spiritual terrain. If you know and love a teenager, you're going to need this book."

-- Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church

"This nuanced, comprehensive book will become the standard reference for anyone seeking a sensitive and rigorous analysis of the religious lives of American adolescents. Dispensing with the hand-wringing that accompanies many accounts, the authors take a multidimensional approach to religiosity, emphasize stability and normal development processes, and explore the effects of religious consistency on well-being as teenagers transition into young adulthood--a smart take on American religiosity and American youth."

-- Penny Edgell, author of Religion and Family in a Changing Society

"Pearce and Denton bring the content, conduct and centrality of religion to life for youth today. They successfully integrate rich person-centered accounts of the meaning and practice of religion among teens using in-depth conversations with youth themselves, combined with variable-centered analyses of a national survey study of youth and religion. A Faith of Their Own thus makes an important contribution to the use of mixed methods, in addition to its path-breaking findings regarding the religious life of American youth."

-- Thomas S. Weisner, Professor of Anthropology, Departments of Psychiatry & Anthropology, UCLA

Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens

Growing Up in America is an eye-opener. In it we intensely experience the lives of teens, and come to see the powerful and often times surprising ways in which race impacts their lives. It is not the case, the authors show us, that white teens have access to the most and best resources. It varies by social institution, by what is valued, and what is needed. This is a wonderfully written, powerful book that enlightens as it engages. We cannot understand the meaning of race without understanding its formation in youth. And this is the very best book written on that subject.
--Michael O. Emerson, Rice University

Growing Up in America masterfully shines an incisive light on how experiences in the four most influential contexts of adolescence—family, peers, school, and religion—can vary immensely based on one's racial or ethnic background. By revealing the unique 'capital portfolios' with which African American, white, Latino, and Asian American youth are equipped for adulthood, this book elucidates how uneven the playing field is when it comes to achieving social, emotional, economic, and spiritual success in adulthood. It's a must read for anyone interested in the sources of stratification and inequality in the U.S. or how race truly matters in the lives of American youth."

--Lisa D. Pearce, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church

Dean (The Godbearing Life), a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, opens this absorbing portrait of teenage religiosity by throwing down a gauntlet: the faith of America's teens is "not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school. One more thing: we're responsible." Dean, who worked on the National Study of Youth and Religion with sociologist Christian Smith, says that American Christians' emphasis on "a do-good, feel-good spirituality" at the expense of deep discipleship may cost them the rising generation, which is (with the exception of Mormon teens, the subject of an admiring chapter-long case study) largely apathetic about Christian faith…” Read More

--From Publishers Weekly Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"A lot of youth workers have been a bit depressed since the National Study of Youth and Religion revealed what we'd long suspected about American teen religiosity: it's pretty darn benign. But in Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean helps us turn the corner from the moralistic, therapeutic deism that afflicts our churches to a hope-filled, consequential faith that has the potential to change the lives of young people and, with a little help from the Holy Spirit, just might transform our world."

-- Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

"Almost Christian hangs an illuminating theological magnifying glass over the startling conclusions of the National Study of Youth and Religion. Peppered with compelling, sometimes unsettling, dialogue from NSYR interviews, the book pulls no punches but, at the same time, inspires hope that the American church can--in fact, must--move beyond the flimsy, vague, self-absorbed spirituality that has unintentionally been woven into the faith fabric of postmodern American Christianity."

-- Mark DeVries, Founder, Youth Ministry Architects, First Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee

"Kenda Creasy Dean argues passionately that the faith of the average American Christian teen is only a pale, watered-down version of the robust faith it could be. Drawing on extensive research and impressive analysis, Dean offers a smart how-to guide for Christian youth ministers and parents who hope to transform that watered-down faith into something much more."

--Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses

“Dean does a great job diagnosing the deeply rooted problem of Therapeutic Moralistic Deism that is so pervasive in culture and the church today. If you’re involved in working with youth or young people it paints a solid picture of what our generation looks like religiously. As for Dean’s solutions, she challenges all adults and especially leaders to reach out and invest in the youth through mentorship and involving them in reaching out to the community both locally and away from home.”

--Eric Rowell

Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

With the protraction of higher education, delays in marriage and childbearing, and extended financial support from parents, emerging adults (or EAs, ages 18–23) enjoy unprecedented freedoms. What does that mean for their spiritual formation? Smith, a veteran sociologist of religion, and Snell, of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Notre Dame, draw on statistical samples and more than 200 in-depth interviews to craft a compelling portrait of college-age Americans. This generation, steeped in religious pluralism, gets high marks for inclusivity and diversity awareness but has troubling consumerist tendencies, consistently prioritizing material wealth and devaluing altruism…” Read More

--From Publishers Weekly Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"Well-organized and seasoned with enough memorable interviews that lay readers will value it as much as specialists."

--Publisher's Weekly

"Ranks for me as a potential book of the year for 2010."

"Unlike the nonsense delivered in news magazines and opinion polls, Souls in Transition is serious scholarly research about religion among emerging adults. The sober, fair-minded presentation of evidence about what is and what is not happening among Americans age 18 to 23 is refreshing."

--Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

"It would be hard to exceed the brilliance of Soul Searching, but Smith and Snell have achieved this feat in Souls in Transition. Through a masterful combination of surveys and interviews the authors illuminate emerging adults' religious beliefs as no one has done before, and also provide numerous insights on how religion is connected to other aspects of their lives. This book is social science at its best and should not be missed by anyone who wishes to understand the lives of today's emerging adults."

--Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Clark University, Author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties"

"Christian Smith's work in the National Study of Youth and Religion is the gold standard for research on religion and adolescents--and now, emerging adults. So buckle up: Souls in Transition reads like an avalanche as Smith reports the findings of the 18-23 year old cohort, takes on our culture's current "crisis of knowledge and value," reveals the uneven terrain of emerging adulthood. Insisting that religious disinterest in 18-23 year olds is neither inevitable nor universal, Smith challenges parents and congregations to support and model religious engagement with emerging adults. If you're a parent, pastor, campus minister, educator, congregation member--or a 'twenty something' yourself-- this book needs to be on your shelf."

--Kenda Creasy Dean, Ph.D., parent, pastor, and Associate Professor of Youth, Church and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary.

"Impressive...Smith, a professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, is a gutsy sociologist who does not mind tipping sacred cows or poking around in areas that theologians like to claim for themselves such as religious formation...Smith's research offers us hope."

--Christian Century

"Souls in Transition makes a mighty contribution to the sociology of religion. It is innovative, full of rich narratives, and presents a wealth of accessible quantitative findings. Anyone interested in gaining a serious understanding of America's newest adult cohortswhat they believe, how they practice and view their faith, and the major social influences shaping their experienceshould start with this book."

--Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"This title presents serious scholarly research in a way that is thoroughly accessible to average adult readers, a good mix of readability and substance that belongs in any religious, academic, or public library."

--Catholic Library World

Pathways of Hope and Faith among Hispanic Teens: Pastoral Reflections and Strategies Inspired by the National Study of Youth and Religion

"For decades native-born, English-speaking Latinos have endured the neglect of their spiritual and cultural formation at the hands of Spanish-dominant Latino church leaders who refused change that would address the needs of this growing population of Latinos in the United States. Dr. Rodriguez clearly articulates the resistance present and the transitional shift needed for holistic English-language ministry to flourish in the lives of second-generation Latinos. Every Christian leader who is serious about understanding the complexity and diversity of Latinos must read this insightful contribution to the advancement of the gospel to all Latinos and to the future of the church as a whole in America."

--Rev. Orlando Crespo, national director of InterVarsity Latino Fellowship and author of Being Latino in Christ

"A Future for the Latino Church takes you 'back to the future' of Hispanic ministry in the United States. It is about the growing second and third generations of English-dominant Hispanics who represent a kind of nepantla, an Aztec Indian word for both/and, of in-betweenness in American life. "Memory and destiny frame the five paradoxes in the life of Hispanics of 'living in the hyphen,' that is, two languages (Spanish/English), two cultures (native/American), two philosophies (indigeneous/contemporary), two strategies (tradition/missional) and even two religions (Catholic/Evangelical) competing as the twins in Rebecca's womb, constituting the challenge of ministering to future generations of Hispanics. "This book highlights some groundbreaking creative, holistic yet prophetic ministries that have begun to steer the way toward the future of Hispanic ministry in the United States."

--Dr. Jesse Miranda, president, The Miranda Center, CEO, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

"English-dominant Latinos have great capacity to strengthen churches everywhere. But these Latinos are neglected by church leaders who are fixated on the idea that the only authentic Hispanic ministry is Spanish-language ministry. Dr. Daniel Rodriguez's research into effective multilingual, multicultural churches demonstrates how churches and individuals can draw, nurture and activate this vital group."

--Rodolpho Carrasco, board member, World Vision USA, and director, Two Forty Group

"Daniel Rodriguez challenges us to recognize the increasing diversity of the Latino community and to develop ministries that reach out across that diversity. He also provides examples of churches that are developing models to respond to that challenge. Latino churches have an important future in the United States. Rodriguez helps us understand an important part of that future."

--Juan Francisco Martínez, Fuller Theological Seminary, author, Walk with the People: Latino Ministry in the United States

"Daniel Rodriguez presents the framework for twenty-first century Hispanic American Christian viability and sustainability. As one of the most prominent Hispanic scholars in the church, Daniel captures both the obstacles and opportunities embedded within America's fastest-growing segment of Christianity, Hispanic evangelicals. This book contextualizes the narrative of successful church models that engage, empower and enrich multiple generations for the glory of Christ. Every pastor and church leader committed to reaching the Hispanic American demographic must read this book."

--Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, The Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals

"A Future for the Latino Church is an attempt by my good friend Daniel Rodriguez to awaken us to two realities: the coming 'Joseph' generation which looks differently, acts differently and speaks differently, but is nevertheless Hispanic and potentially the hope for revival in America; and secondly, the reality of crosscultural pollination that is occurring within every ethnic group in the second, third and fourth generations in this country."

--Rev. Daniel de León, senior pastor, Templo Calvario, Santa Ana, CA

"Daniel Rodriguez's A Future for the Latino Church is a truly informative and inspiring book. Based on solid theological, demographic and sociological research from the perspective of the author's own cultural and spiritual pilgrimage, this book presents a compelling argument for reaching U.S.-born Latinos with the gospel message. The carefully selected case studies of highly effective transgenerational Latino churches provide valuable insights as well as a clear sense of direction regarding the future of Latino work in this country. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone who is interested in seeing America's fastest-growing ethnic group become a missionary force in this country and throughout the world."

--Daniel R. Sánchez, author of Hispanic Realities Impacting America and director of the Scarborough Institute of Church Planting & Growth, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

"A Future for the Latino Church is an important book for all who are concerned about the mission of the church in the context of urbanization and globalization. . . . I am delighted with the hard work and devotion of Daniel Rodriguez presented in this book, which will help us get on with the Great Commission."

--From the foreword by Manuel Ortiz, author of The Hispanic Challenge

Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers

"A nuanced sociological treatment of the complex relationship between US teenage sexuality and religiosity. ...Regnerus brings large statistical surveys and secondary sources to life with personal interviews, and his clear prose and frank discussions make the book accessible. This up-to-date sociological study is a shining example of well-articulated research methodologies, statistical interpretations, and explorations of alternative explanations."


"Regnerus does an excellent job of combining large-scale survey results with vivid interviews to provide a comprehensive portrayal of how sexuality and religion are related in the lives of American adolescents. The book shows how sexuality and religion interact in complex and sometimes surprising ways. It addresses important topics few other books on either sexuality or religion in adolescence have addressed, such as masturbation and Internet pornography. Anyone interested in the lives of today's young Americans should read this book."

--Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties

"Forbidden Fruit is an iconoclastic book that shatters the sexual pieties of the religious right and the secular left. Mark Regnerus shows that churches and Christian parents--especially evangelical ones--have failed to steer their kids clear of sex because they hold out no compelling vision of the sexual good life. But he also shows that the secular left's faith in 'healthy' teen sex is chimerical: adolescents who have had sex look worse on all the outcomes that scholars and parents care about. This important book is bound to get parents, pastors, and scholars talking."

-- W. Bradford Wilcox, author of Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands

"I've waited for this book my entire ministry. It used to be that only skeptics and mystics noticed the interplay between sexuality and spirituality in young people--but Regnerus confronts the parallels head on as a sociologist, and dares the church to do the same. Forget "forbidden": Forbidden Fruit should be required reading for anyone who loves young people."

--Kenda Creasy Dean, parent, pastor, professor and author of Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church

"An eye-opening read for those who share concerns about adolescent health and well-being."

--Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

Encyclopedic in scope and exhaustive in detail, this study offers an impressive array of data, statistics and concluding hypotheses about American teenage religious identity, with appendixes explaining methodology and extensive endnotes. Sociologists of religion at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Smith and Denton cover a range of topics: e.g., "mapping" religious affiliations, creating new categories to describe teenage spirituality, exploring why Catholic teens are largely apathetic…” Read More

--From Publishers Weekly Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

"We strongly recommend this book to those interested in the religiousity of American teenagers. Social scientists, religious leaders, youth leaders, and parents will find this an enlightening read."

--Brigham Young University Studies

"This book is, quite simply, the best book ever on the best study ever on the topic of adolescents and religion. It is exemplary social science, combining the best of qualitative and quantitative methods, not only empirically strong but theoretically rich."

--Journal of Adolescent Research

"Let this book challenge you as parents and church leaders to evaluate what you are teaching the rising generation. More importantly, let it challenge you to examine your beliefs and practices and the teaching of the church."

--Equip for Ministry

"For scholars as well as parents, teachers, relatives, mentors, and other persons interested in the well-being of teens, this is and will likely be the definitive book on teens and religion for years to come."

--Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"This survey is 'the largest and most comprehensive and detaile study of American teenage religion and spirituality conducted to date.' All major religions and two, what the authors refer to as 'minority religious traditions, Mormonism and Judaism,' are covered...In the meantime, this book does place Mormons and Jews in context to the majority US religions and that is a valuable beginning."

--Community, the Jewish Community Federation (KY) newspaper

"This book is a landmark study of the religious attitudes and practices of American teenagers. While the study demonstrates that there is a strong correlation between religious commitment and positive social behavior, there are also disturbing trends related to this theologically illiterate generation of teens who primarily think of God as their private butler.” Read More

--Donald E. Miller, author of Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millennium

"Soul Searching is a bombshell, and one that is long overdue. It convincingly demonstrates that many of our assumptions about youth and religion in the U.S. are well off the mark. Instead of finding hostility toward religion, we meet young people from every corner of the culture who echo their parents religiosity to an astonishing degree-but this, as it turns out, is hardly a formula for vibrant faith. Soul Searching puts American religious communities on notice: if religion matters, then we had better stop exposing young people to faith and startteaching it to them. Anyone who lives or works with teenagers simply must read this book. You won't be able to sit still after you do."

--Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church

"This is an extremely important book. In presenting the results from the most ambitious national study ever conducted among American teenagers about their religious and spiritual lives, it sheds new light from start to finish. I highly recommend it."

--Robert Wuthnow, author of America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity

"This book is a rich resource that Christian educators, church officers, and parents need to be aware of."

--Ordained Servant, A Journal of Church Officers

"Fills an enormous gap in our knowledge about young people. If there is one book to read outside your discipline this year it is Soul Searching."


"The most comprehensive and reliable research ever done on youth and religion. For the next 50 years writers on the topic will be referring to their book."

--The Christian Century

"Smith and Denton's findings beg for a response from those working in youth ministry."

--The Christian Century

"Demolishes the conventional wisdom....a must-read"

--Andrew Greeley, National Catholic Reporter

"With a mixture of good news and bad news that punctures many stereotypes about adoloscent religious beliefs and behavior, this extensive study deserves attention for what it reveals across the full range of American religious groups."

--Peter Steinfels, The New York Times

"Pioneering....a highly informative and provocative book....[that] is also readable, full of illuminating anecdotes and summaries from which the lively, often-touching personalities of teenagers emerge."

--Chicago Tribune

"Youth groups, role models, service activities and cultural rituals of religious institutions all seem to help youth lead more healthy, moral and happy lives. This book goes a long way toward explaining the extent of this phenomenon and which religions seem to be accomplishing these benefits most."

--New York Post

"Of course, it's not the point whether or not Smith and Denton believe in God. They believe in religion. They believe in teenagers. And for good reason. The data suggests that America would be better off if we all believed as they do."

--The Revealer

"No book in recent memory has as much potential to transform the practice of youth ministry...[T]he results overturn nearly every piece of conventional wisdom about teens and faith."

--Christianity Today

"Soul Searching represents social science at its very best."


Although the site links listed in this section are offered as possible resources, their listing here does not necessarily imply the endorsement or recommendation of the National Study of Youth and Religion. Project-users must exercise discretion in evaluating and using these sites.

National Study of Youth and Religion

The National Study of Youth and Religion, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., is under the direction of Dr. Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, and Dr. Lisa Pearce, Assistant Professor of Sociology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.