“My Relationship with Them Is Far Richer than It Was Before”: Benefits of Negotiating Religious Difference in LDS Parent-Child Relationships

Reading Time: 2 minutes On March 2nd the Fulton Library hosted Utah Valley University Professor Jordan Allen in the Roots of Knowledge gallery, where she spoke about her findings and results of a study that focused on the costs and disadvantages of parent-child religious differences.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Jordan Allen (Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is a scholar of interpersonal and family communication. Her research investigates the ways individuals negotiate and manage (sometimes mismanage) challenging family conversations. The goal of this research is to provide insight into the ways having difficult conversations can be improved in personal and professional contexts. 

In her presentation, professor Allen explored the bright side of religious differences in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) parent-child relationships through a communication lens. 

In Spring 2022, Professor Allen and her research team interviewed adult children who felt they differed from one or more of their parents’ LDS beliefs. These participants indicated both personal and relational benefits of negotiating these differences with their parents.

Their study was conducted on participants with an average age of late 20s, spanning several states.  Each participant had a very different relationship with their parents and no two cases were the same. 

Their findings included participants feeling more individual growth and relation growth when lines of communication are open among parents and adult children that view the LDS church differently. Participants felt “more freedom and autonomy” Allen stated. 

In her speech, Allen said the running theme of all her research was: “How do we construct dysfunctional relationships? And then how do people who we might think are in dysfunctional relationships resist that idea?” She described how religious differences in relationships between a parent and child can have negative effects. 

“We can anticipate children or if you’re in this kind of relationship and anticipate secrecy. So concealing any sort of difference from your parents decreases relational solidarity or family identity, decreased closeness, decreased relational quality, ” Allen said. She states that these were the most prominent findings to date from her study.

 Her scholarship has been published in several academic journals, including The Journal of Family Communication, Communication Theory, and Western Journal of Communication.

The Roots of Knowledge gallery in the Fulton Library hosts events every two weeks where speakers share their research in academia. To learn more about the Roots of Knowledge and its events visit the Roots of Knowledge website.