Generation Y is widely defined as the 77 million Americans born between 1977 and 1997 — and as any good demographic sample would, it’s being analyzed.

A Denver Post blogger opines on why Gen Y’ers are moving back in with their parents.

JD Power and Associates dissects Gen Y’s buying patterns and suggests that the recession is making them grapple with a “Quarter-Life Crisis.”

Today’s “emerging adults” enjoy more options for work, marriage and location than perhaps any previous generation. But with that freedom come anxiety and confusion. And sociologists like Christian Smith and Mark Regnerus are taking a deeper look at what faith has to do with it.

Smith, professor of sociology at Notre Dame, will deliver a luncheon keynote address at tomorrow’s Heritage-sponsored research conference, “Religious Practice and the Family. ” He will draw his talk from his new book, “Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults.”

In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Smith commented on how social factors have shaped the religious attitudes of emerging adults:

Most emerging adults are disconnected from religious institutions and practices. Geographic mobility, social mobility, wanting to have options, thinking this is the time to be crazy and free in ways most religious traditions would frown upon, wanting an identity different from the family of origin—all of these factors reduce serious faith commitments.

For some emerging adults, the chaos helps them find that religion is an extremely helpful antidote. But that’s after they have been through many difficulties. And only some look to faith to provide stability; most do not go there in the first place.

All that said, there is a significant minority of emerging adults who are raised in seriously religious families who continue on with that. It’s not a story of consistent decline. But overall the culture of emerging adulthood puts many pressures on faith practices that are undermining or depressing.”

In the afternoon, Regnerus and other panelists will address these emerging adults’ attitudes toward premarital sex and marriage. He is the author of “Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers” and a forthcoming book on emerging adults.

This conference — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington — serves as a resource for counselors, clergy and anyone concerned about the future of the family and helping youth navigate today’s cultural challenges.

Hosted by The Heritage Foundation with research partners Child Trends and Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, “Religious Practice and the Family” is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. Material presented will be available via the conference Web site.