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Religious identity development of strict Protestant adolescents in the Netherlands.

Adolescence is a crucial period in the development of teenagers. They need to develop a stable identity that can function as a fundament for their  further development. Religion is important for this identity development because it offers beliefs, values, and norms that give meaning and influence behavior.
In the Netherlands, there are several groups of strict religious people, like Muslims and Christians. For these highly religious people, religion determines their lives, so also their religious identity development. Strict Protestant adolescents develop their identity in a context that is highly religious and fairly homogeneous and this influences their identity development. This context is often different from the secularized world around them. That makes identity development a challenge.

We observed that the research on the way strict Protestant adolescents construct and develop their religious identity, is underdeveloped. Because of this lack of research, there is a need to gain factual knowledge about this population and their religious identity development. The aim of this research is to understand and describe the religious identity development of adolescents with a strict Protestant education, from the perspective of young adults. In our study we will focus on identity construction, processes of exploration and commitment and on the role of identity agents in this development.

In our qualitative research we will do in-depth interviews with a narrative element in which young adults retrospectively narrate their religious identity development during adolescence and the role that identity agents played in this development. By zooming in on the role of identity agents we take into consideration the context in which religious identity development occurs.

The research may contribute to theory formation on religious identity development, from a qualitative-empirical perspective. Furthermore, it may inform (professional) educators in school, church, and family who as ‘identity agents’ are involved in guiding adolescents in their religious identity development. Lastly, because of the critical voices about strict Protestants, the study may provide a more evidence-based and more realistic image of strict Protestants.

The project is a co-financed PhD-trajectory in which PThU and Driestar educatief will be working together.

PhD-student:

Anne-Marije de Bruin-Wassinkmaat MSc

Supervisors:

Prof. Marcel Barnard (PThU, promoter),  prof. Cok Bakker (Utrecht University, second promoter), dr. A de Kock (PThU, copromoter) and dr. Elsbeth Visser-Vogel  (Driestar educatief) .