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Study: Divorce, media & materialism top list of threats to family

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Divorce, negative influences from the media and materialism are among the most common threats to the family cited by Protestant ministers in a recent study.

Ellison Research, a full-service marketing research firm in Phoenix that conducted the research for the November/December issue of LifeWay’s Facts & Trends magazine, reported that divorce was listed as one of the top three concerns by 43 percent of all ministers surveyed while 38 percent cited the media as a key issue they need to guard families in their communities against and 36 percent said materialism.

Other matters of concern included absentee fathers, cited by 24 percent of respondents, and families that lack a stay-at-home parent, noted by 22 percent of ministers.

Among Southern Baptists, the top five issues of concern were divorce (53 percent), negative influences from the media (38 percent), materialism (36 percent), absentee fathers (29 percent) and latch-key kids (23 percent), the study found.

Ellison noticed Methodists paid particular attention to parental alcohol and drug use as well as economic issues while seeing less of a threat from pornography and absentee fathers. Lutherans were more concerned with the impact of materialism and alcohol use by parents and children and were less worried about absentee fathers and latch-key kids.

Pentecostals, the study said, were less concerned than average about materialism and were more concerned that morality is not being taught in schools. Southern Baptists, meanwhile, were more concerned about divorce and less likely to worry about economic issues.

“The level of threat each issue represented often differed from region to region, and no threat was named among the top three by even half of all pastors,” Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, said.

“Obviously the threats to families differ considerably from one community to the next. An upscale suburban community may be threatened most by materialism or latch-key kids, while a rural area may have real problems with poverty or alcoholism,” he said. “This could make any nationwide or large-scale initiatives to deal with these problems a challenge, or at least lead to very spotty success.”

The study also asked ministers to agree or disagree with three statements about family. A majority agreed with the statement, “Churches tend to focus so much on ‘traditional’ families that they do not serve important groups such as singles, childless couples or single parents appropriately.”

Ellison found that 12 percent agreed strongly with that statement, 48 percent agreed somewhat, 26 percent disagreed somewhat and 14 percent disagreed strongly. Southern Baptists were less likely than average to have this perspective, the study said.

Regarding the statement, “Like it or not, the traditional view of family (husband, wife and children) no longer really exists in American society,” about half of ministers agreed. Again, Southern Baptists were less likely than average to agree.

And when asked about the statement, “No matter how society defines family, churches need to promote a traditional view of family (husband, wife and children),” 71 percent agreed strongly.

Ellison Research said its sample of 695 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches. The study’s total sample is accurate to within plus or minus 3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations. Respondents’ geography, church size and denomination were tracked for appropriate representation and accuracy.
More data from this study is available at http://www.greymatterresearch.com/index_files/Family_Threats.htm.

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