A new study by Communio shows that a growing number of Christian singles struggle with loneliness and that they are delaying things like marriage and starting a family. The study was conducted through a nationwide survey of 19,000 Sunday church attendees from 112 congregations of evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic backgrounds. The Communio Nationwide Study on Faith and Relationships noted the decline of Christian churches in the United States over the past 40 years and concluded that the collapse of marriage and decline of resident fatherhood could be the biggest causes of US church decline. Currently, in the US, less than 50 percent of US adults under 30 grew up with married parents, yet the study found that 80 percent of churchgoers across all age groups grew up in homes with continuously married biological parents. The study also found that 87 percent of churchgoing men aged 25-29 grew up in families of continuously married biological parents. 

In regards to loneliness, the study found that 15 percent of churchgoers are considered lonely. That is considerably less than the 58 percent reported in a Cigna study. The health effects of loneliness have been equated to being the same as smoking 15 cigarettes daily. However, the study found that 50 percent of churchgoing, unmarried singles between the ages of 30-39 were lonely, in comparison with only 15 percent of their married counterparts. The percentage of lonely unmarrieds is even higher than widows. “What we see in the study is that the net effect of all of that is the crisis of loneliness; that the most lonely people walking around in our churches, in our communities, are actually not the elderly or widows. It’s men and women in their 30s, who in every other time period — almost every other decade before this century — would have been overwhelmingly likely to be married,” Communio president J.P. DeGance and author of the study told Fox News DigitalAdditionally, the study found that marital status affected how much a couple struggled. Eighteen percent of married people reported struggling in their marriage vs. 32 percent of those who are cohabitating. Women struggled more than men, with married women being 62 percent more likely to struggle than married men. Cohabitating women were 85 percent more likely to struggle in their relationships than cohabitating men. 

The study researchers mainly focused on the decline of marriage and resident fatherhood as a source of the churches’ decline. “Research by Dr. Paul Vitz, emeritus professor of psychology at New York University sheds further light here. Vitz shows that the failure of a child to form a healthy attachment to their father often manifests itself in the later loss of faith, interest in New Age spirituality, or the manifestation of agnosticism or atheism,” the study cited. The study also noted the importance of “religious transmission,” noting that closeness to a father with a religious background is more likely to translate to his children continuing in the same faith tradition. Citing an Oxford University Press study, quoted, “Closeness to fathers matters more than closeness to mothers in religious transmission. Among Evangelical fathers, there is a 25-point difference in [the professed faith] similarity [between parent/child] for children who feel emotionally close to fathers compared to those who are not close; for Evangelical mothers, the difference is just 1 percentage point. A similar pattern exists for Mainline and Catholics.” DeGance stated that the culture does not encourage marriage. “We are told that you should not prioritize getting married and having a family, that you should instead prioritize climbing the career ladder and maximizing your income.” 

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