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Parents matter in the religious lives of America's youth.

This finding was clear to sociologist Christian Smith as the principal investigator for the National Study of Youth and Religion in 2002-2003, the most detailed study ever done on teens and religion. And it was clear in a 2007-2008 study following teens into emerging adulthood.

"What the best empirical evidence shows...is that even as the formation of faith and life play out in the lives of 18- to 23-year olds, when it comes to religion, parents are in fact hugely important," report Smith and Patricia Snell of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.

Of the many influences on emerging adults, "One of the most powerful factors was the religious lives of their parents-how often they attended religious services, how important religious faith was in their own lives, and so on," they write in their new book, "Souls in Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults."

Research show religious teens have in general a more positive outcome in areas from mental health to compassion for others.

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