Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

Sociological Studies of Children and Youth





Publisher Name

Emerald Publishing Limited

Publisher Location

Bingley: UK



The sexual lives of religious youth and young adults have been an increasing topic of interest since the rise of abstinence-only education and attendant programs in many religious institutions. But while we know a lot about individual-level rates of sexual behavior, far less is known about how religious organizations shape and mediate sexuality. We draw on data from observations with youth and young adult ministries and interviews with religious young adults and adult leaders from Muslim, Hindu, and Protestant Christian groups in order to examine how religious adults in positions of organizational authority work to manage the gender and sexual developments in the transition to adulthood among their youth. We find three distinct organizational styles across the various religious traditions: avoidance through gender segregation, self-restraint supplemented with peer surveillance, and a classed disengagement. In each of these organizational responses, gender and sexuality represent something that must be explained and controlled in the process of cultivating the proper adult religious disposition. The paper examines how religious congregations and other religious organizations oriented toward youth, work to manage the gender and sexual developments in their youth’s transitions to adulthood. The paper draws from a larger project that is studying the lived processes of religious transmission between generations.


Data were extracted from (a) ethnographic observations of youth programming at religious organizations; (b) ethnographicobservations with families during their religious observances; (c) interviews with adult leaders of youth ministry programs. The sample includes Protestant Christian, Muslim, and Hindu organizations and families.




Author Posting. © Emerald Publishing Limited 2018. This chapter is posted here by permission of Emerald Publishing Limited for personal use, not for redistribution. The chapter was published in Vol. 23 of the Sociological Studies of Children and Youth book series, 2018,

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.