Silverstein to study religion, prosocial values among millennials

October 10, 2019 | Michele Barrett

Silverstein, MerrillApproximately one-third of millennials and post-millennials—young adults born 1981 and later—profess to have no connection to religion, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet evidence points to their strengthened humanitarian values and prominent spirituality.

The degree to which religion is decoupled from prosocial goals and spirituality in contemporary young adults is one of many research questions to be addressed in the project “Spirituality and Prosocial Values in the Absence of Religion Among Millennials and Their Families.”

This study, led by Merril Silverstein, the Marjorie Cantor Endowed Professor of Aging Studies in the Falk College and the Maxwell School, is made possible by a $2,898,748 award from the John Templeton Foundation and could very well reframe the debate on generational change as it addresses aspects of religious devolution about which relatively little is known.

According to Silverstein, “values traditionally associated with religion may have remained constant or strengthened in the contemporary cohort of millennials even as the religious basis for those values has weakened.” By studying the religious orientations of the millennial generation within the larger context of spirituality and prosocial values compared to previous generations, the researchers will have a deeper understanding about prosocial values and spirituality and their decoupling from religion.

Jointly appointed in the Falk College, Department of Human Development and Family Science, and the Maxwell School, Department of Sociology, Silverstein is a faculty associate in Syracuse University Aging Studies Institute. Earlier this year at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting, Silverstein was honored with the Matilda White Riley Distinguished Scholar Award by the organization’s Section on Aging and the Life Course. This annual award honors a scholar in aging and the life course who has shown exceptional achievement in research, theory or policy analysis, or who has otherwise advanced knowledge of this field.

Read more in the full article, "Advancing scholarly inquiry into connections between religion, spirituality and social change."