Study: Few Christian Parents See Teens' Faith Challenges as Significant

Christian parents say one of the most significant issues that young people face is feeling misunderstood by their family, a new study revealed. The more obvious challenging issue for teens, according to their parents, is peer pressure.

The Barna Group conducted a study on Christian parents to identify the specific problems teens and pre-teens may be facing today. According to the results, parents listed peer pressure (42 percent) as the most challenging issue for their teens, 13 to 18 years old. For children under the age of 13, parents identified school performance (26 percent) as the most significant issue.

Peer pressure is also a major challenging issue for pre-teens, as listed by 24 percent of parents. Other most common issues were behavioral changes (10 percent), media use (6 percent), attitudes (6 percent), family-related struggles (5 percent), health-related struggles (5 percent), and issues related to their maturation (5 percent).

Challenges pertaining to faith were mentioned by only 3 percent of parents.

"The percentage of young people plagued by peer pressure issues more than doubles once a child reaches high school," George Barna, who conducted the survey, stated in the report. "That pressure takes many forms: using drugs or alcohol, befriending certain groups of peers, owning specific media technologies, having sexual experiences, wearing particular types of clothing or brands, and possessing a certain attitude."

On a further note, Barna pointed out that mothers are much more aware of peer pressure issues while fathers are more aware of the academic pressure their children face.

For older teens, following peer pressure, performance in school and substance abuse were identified by 16 percent of parents as other challenging issues. Also in the list were behavioral issues (15 percent) followed by less common issues including values development (6 percent), college choices and acceptance (5 percent), attitude (5 percent), and media use (5 percent). Again, only 3 percent of parents listed challenges related to their teen's faith.

When given a list of possible challenges their teens might face, 45 percent of parents said not having enough money was a "very" or "somewhat" significant issue to their teen; 43 percent listed feeling misunderstood by their family; 40 said struggling with their self-image; 37 percent said not owning the latest technology; 33 percent listed not wearing the "right" clothing; and 32 percent said not feeling accepted by their peers.

Parents of children younger than 13 identified the most serious issue as feeling misunderstood by their family (41 percent); being made fun of by their peers (32 percent); struggling with their self-image (26 percent); and not feeling accepted by their peers (26 percent).

"What's interesting is that kids who feel misunderstood generally maintain the belief that their family loves them. That's a critical bond that enables most of them to transcend the division and stay connected to their family," Barna said.

He added, "Understanding the tensions that kids are wrestling with enables an adult to connect with a child at a deeper level. Acknowledging the challenges, relating teaching to the issues they face, and even praying more specifically for these young people are ways of retaining and even deepening the relationship while providing tangible assistance to each child."

The survey was conducted for media production company Good News Holdings in November 2006 on 601 parents of children 18 or younger, and who consider themselves to be Christian.