Parent and family religious education: A case study based on an ecological theory of human development

Eugene Vincent Tozzi, Fordham University


Prior research indicates the importance of parent involvement in the religious formation of children. Roman Catholic churches in the United States make extensive efforts to promote such parent involvement through religious education programs for parents and families. This study attempted to elaborate a theoretical framework for understanding these efforts and to use this framework to examine such programs at selected sites. Three suburban parishes were chosen for study. At two of these the study focused on parent meetings related to the First Communion program. At the third site two family oriented religious education programs were studied. At each site the study included observation of sessions, interviews with the program staff, a survey of parent participants, and interviews with parents. The theoretical framework for the study was an ecological theory of human development based on the work of Urie Bronfenbrenner. Many of the processes and outcomes observed were consistent with this theory. Many participants in these programs tended to report mildly positive outcomes. Such outcomes included increases in feelings of closeness to the church, Mass attendance, prayer, and Bible reading. Some participants reported more dramatic outcomes, such as returning to weekly Mass attendance after a long absence, or increased involvement in parish activities. Often these outcomes seemed to flow not just from the sessions observed but from the whole network of activities and relationships that parents found at their parish. It appeared that sessions were more effective if they were characterized by a high degree of interaction rather than lecture, smaller groups, non-authoritarian styles of leadership, and a positive relationship between the leader and participants. The parish that seemed to be most effective in its outreach to parents placed a great deal of emphasis on personal contact with young families, a degree of choice by parents in selecting programs for their children, and sessions and activities that involved the whole family.

Subject Area

Religious education|Religion|Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Tozzi, Eugene Vincent, "Parent and family religious education: A case study based on an ecological theory of human development" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511252.