Robin D. Perrin
Mar 1, 1989
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Earlier research has established that during the 1960s and 1970s, conservative Protestant denominations in general greatly increased in membership, while more liberal denominations declined. The major theoretical explanations for this trend have held that both cultural and demographic factors were involved. Of primary interest to researchers have been changes in the values of the youth counterculture of the 1960s, including a decline in church participation. This exodus left mainline constituencies comparatively "old," depriving them of the young adults whose children would have populated the churches through the 1970s and 1980s. The present study assesses the empirical evidence for various elements in this theoretical position, drawing upon data from the National Opinion Research Center's annual General Social Surveys of 1972 through 1985. This study establishes that attitudes toward personal freedom and morality, usually associated with the 1960s youth counterculture, are predictive of differential church participation, and that contemporary memberships of the liberal denominations have an older average age and a lower birthrate than those found in the conservative denominations.