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The National Study of Youth and Religion is a research project designed to enhance our understanding of the religious lives of American youth from adolescence into young adulthood.

Dr. Christian Smith
Co-Principal Investigator
Professor of Sociology & Director
Center for the Study of Religion and Society
University of Notre Dame
812 Flanner Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
800-434-8441

National Study of Youth and Religion

The National Study of Youth and Religion is a research project directed by Christian Smith, Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame and Lisa Pearce, assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This project, generously supported by Lilly Endowment Inc., began in August 2001 and is currently funded through December 2010. Wave 3 (January 2007 - December 2010) is also supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The project is designed to enhance our understanding of the religious lives of American youth from adolescence into young adulthood, using telephone survey and in-depth interview methods. What follows is a more detailed description of the goals and design of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The purpose of the NSYR is to research the shape and influence of religion and spirituality in the lives of American youth; to identify effective practices in the religious, moral, and social formation of the lives of youth; to describe the extent and perceived effectiveness of the programs and opportunities that religious communities are offering to their youth; and to foster an informed national discussion about the influence of religion in youth's lives, in order to encourage sustained reflection about and rethinking of our cultural and institutional practices with regard to youth and religion.

This research project is designed to accomplish three major tasks at once. First, to collect quantitative data on a "big-picture," macro scale, in order to be able to make convincing representative national claims about youth and religion. Second, to collect in-depth, qualitative data in order to help us better understand the texture and meanings of the lived experiences of youth, to sensitively interpret the quantitative data, and to generate "grounded" theories about the influences of religion in youth's lives. Third, this project is designed to maintain contact with the youth we sample, to track changes in their lives over time, in order to be able through longitudinal analysis to make claims about the causal effects of religion in youth's lives. Our research design package achieves all three of these objectives by combining a national telephone survey of American youth and parents in 2002-2003 and follow-up surveys with the original youth participants in 2005 and 2007-2008, with personal, in-depth interviews (conducted in 2003, 2005 and 2008) with a sub-sample of the surveyed youth. This approach unites the best in quantitative and qualitative methods, and cross-sectional and longitudinal research to produce the strongest possible research findings.

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