Growing up Amish: The Teenage Years

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Nearly 90 percent of those who grow up Amish choose the Amish way: a lifetime commitment to the faith and a traditional way of life. To outsiders immersed in the daily realities and luxuries of the modern world, this statistic may seem unbelievable. In this in-depth study of Amish adolescence, Richard A. Stevick offers a balanced, comprehensive, and engaging account of the social forces and rituals—including Rumspringa—that contribute to this statistic.

In Growing Up Amish, Stevick reveals the world of Amish youth caught between the expectations of their traditional community and the growing pressures and temptations that accompany adolescence. Drawing from a dozen years of research in more than seventy communities in fifteen states, he carefully details home life and school, social singings and wild parties, isolated settlements and Amish youth gangs, and courtship practices and wedding rituals. Stevick shows how the strong and distinct Amish identity is fostered by the entire community—parents, ministers, teachers, and neighbors. With positive reinforcement and constant modeling of Amish behavior and values, this strong identity keeps most youth from feeling at ease in and identifying with the outside world.

This definitive work provides new and important insight into what life is really like for the adolescents, their families, and their communities during the "running around" years and how these fascinating rituals have, in fact, helped the Amish preserve their unique culture.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

History Wire

In Stevick's engaging narrative, he profiles the religious foundation of the Amish, its history, culture and schooling, the Amish at work and play, the tradition of weekly singing, and dating and courtship.

Bloomsbury Review

A thorough and in-depth analysis of the formative in-between years when the young Amish generation approaches the lifestyle-determining threshold of adulthood.


A 'must' for any collection strong in either Amish history and culture or regional American community sociology.

Peaceful Societies

Many of the author's insights are intriguing... an impressive book.

Midwest Book Review

A 'must' for any collection strong in either Amish history and culture or regional American community sociology.


The author discusses the teenagers' education, teen culture, rumpsringa or 'running around' years, and courtships and weddings... Useful for anyone studying adolescence and cultural identity and adolescence, this work will become an important classic in the field of Amish and Anabaptist studies. Highly recommended.

Brethren Life and Thought
A pleasurable read and responsible treatment of an interesting subject.

— James Benedict

Mennonite Quarterly Review

The author deftly interweaves the pressures to conform to the fabric of Amish life, highlighting the roles of religion, school, family and community. The book provides an overview of Amish adolescence and also serves as a more general primer for Amish life.

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

So why do so many Amish teens choose to remain within the Amish fold rather than pursue greater freedom outside the community? The answer can be found in Stevick's book.

Agricultural History
An excellent introduction or primer about the Amish. In fact, I intend to adopt the book for a course I teach on 'Amish Society' at Ohio State University.

— Joseph F. Donnermeyer

Brethren Life and Thought - James Benedict

A pleasurable read and responsible treatment of an interesting subject. Stevick manages to both dissolve idyllic and naive notions of Amish life and at the same time show respect and grant insight into the reality of it.

Agricultural History - Joseph F. Donnermeyer

Another in a very long line of superbly written, scholarly accounts of Amish life published by the Johns Hopkins University Press... A rigorously researched, well-organized, and clearly written study. Due to rapid population increase, the Amish will be a growing part of the rural scene in twenty-first century America, and for us outsiders to understand them with accuracy and compassion, we need to read, consult, and refer to books like Growing Up Amish.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Richard A. Stevick is professor emeritus of psychology at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface     ix
Amish Life: Plain and Perplexing     3
Socialization: Passing on the Faith     21
Adolescence: Testing an Amish Identity     41
Schooling: Read'n, Writ'n, and Learning the Basics     61
Parenting: Holding On and Letting Go     79
Teen Culture: Working Hard and Having Fun     105
Singings: Socializing and Stepping Out     129
Rumspringa: The Running-Around Years     151
Courtship: Finding a Mate     173
Weddings: High Times in Plain Places     199
The Future: Keeping Faith and Coming Home     231
German Word Usage     249
Notes     253
Selected References     283
Index     291
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