The Intersection of Religion, Gender, and Family among U.S. Catholics: A Quantitative Analysis of the Relation of Religious Orthodoxy to Attitudes and Practices Concerning the Family

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation is composed of three related papers, all using quantitative methods to address how the religious beliefs and practices of U.S. Catholics intersect with those pertaining to family life. In the first empirical chapter, I investigate how religious authority is measured in the Catholic tradition, and how beliefs pertaining to magisterial Catholic authority connect with the traditional family and gender ideologies of U.S. Catholics. In the second empirical chapter, I examine the relationship between full-time employment and the religious commitment of U.S. mothers, specifically investigating the moderating effect of religious tradition – the Catholic tradition included. In the third empirical chapter, I analyze the social attitudes of U.S. millennial Catholics, considering how religious attendance relates to attitudes on abortion and same-sex marriage of this population and whether this relationship is also seen across other generations of U.S. Catholics.

My findings illustrate how adherence to particular religious beliefs and religious practices inform family ideologies, as well as how family arrangements affect the religiousness of U.S. Catholics. Firstly, I show that beliefs about magisterial authority in the Catholic tradition account for variation in Catholics’ social attitudes regarding gendered parenting roles, thus demonstrating that beliefs particular to Catholicism influence attitudes on social issues and that beliefs regarding Catholic magisterial authority connect with family issues beyond human sexuality – the relationship almost exclusively examined by scholars. Second, I show how religious tradition, and the orthodoxies contained within religious traditions, affect the relationship between employment status and women’s religious practice. I establish quantitatively that the relationship between employment status and religious involvement is complicated by religious tradition and historically salient religious orthodoxies. While full-time employment was related to lower religious involvement for evangelical mothers historically, this is not so today. Full-time employment is also unrelated to the religious practice of Catholic mothers. Third, I demonstrate that generational status affects the relationship between religious attendance and the social beliefs of U.S. Catholics regarding sexuality and family life. Mass-attending U.S. Catholic millennials currently exhibit a distinctive social conservatism on select family issues, though this is only the case for millennials most involved in the Church, namely, daily mass-goers.


Attribute NameValues
Author Linda M. Kawentel
Contributor Christian Smith , Committee Member
Contributor Kevin Christiano, Committee Member
Contributor Mary Ellen Konieczny, Research Director
Contributor Elizabeth McClintock, Committee Member
Contributor Kraig Beyerlein, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2017-06-21

Submission Date 2017-07-17
  • Family Sociology

  • Sociology of Religion

  • U.S. Catholicism

  • English

Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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