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Growing Up Amish

The Rumspringa Years

Richard A. Stevick

Publication Year: 2014

On the surface, it appears that little has changed for Amish youth in the past decade: children learn to work hard early in life, they complete school by age fourteen or fifteen, and a year or two later they begin Rumspringa—that brief period during which they are free to date and explore the outside world before choosing whether to embrace a lifetime of Amish faith and culture. But the Internet and social media may be having a profound influence on significant numbers of the Youngie, according to Richard A. Stevick, exposing Amish teenagers to a world that did not exist for them only a few years ago. Once hidden in physical mailboxes, announcements of weekend parties are now posted on Facebook. Today, thousands of Youngie in large Amish settlements are dedicated smartphone and Internet users, forcing them to navigate carefully between technology and religion. Updated photographs throughout the book include a screenshot from an Amish teenager's Facebook page. In the second edition of Growing Up Amish, Stevick draws on decades of experience working with and studying Amish adolescents across the United States to produce this well-rounded, definitive, and realistic view of contemporary Amish youth. Besides discussing the impact of smartphones and social media usage, he carefully examines work and leisure, rites of passage, the rise of supervised youth groups, courtship rituals, weddings, and the remarkable Amish retention rate. Finally, Stevick contemplates the potential impact of electronic media to significantly alter traditional Amish practices, culture, and its future staying power.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiv

When I began this revision of Growing Up Amish in January 2012, a number of friends expressed surprise that I was working on this project less than a decade after the original edition came out in early 2007. “After all,” they asked rhetorically, “what significant changes could occur...

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pp. xv-2

I could not have written this revised edition without the help of many individuals. I am grateful to my original Johns Hopkins University Press editor, Greg Nicholl, who approached me with the idea not only to revise the book, but especially to focus on the intersection of Amish youth and...

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Chapter One: Amish Life: Plain but Not So Simple

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pp. 3-24

When I first began studying the Amish in the early 1990s, I was hard pressed to find extensive or even superficial attention focused on their teenage years. Although several writers had documented their experiences at an Amish wedding, the couples are considered to be adults, and...

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Chapter Two: Religion: Transmitting the Faith

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pp. 25-46

Although most standard texts on adolescent development devote little attention to religious practices and faith issues, any study of Amish youth that neglects this subject would be seriously deficient. Much has been written to describe Amish worship rituals and beliefs, but little attention...

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Chapter Three: Adolescence: Building an Amish Identity

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pp. 7-68

When I began my study of Amish youth and the Internet, especially their involvement with Facebook, I had the challenge of discerning, from among those who were current rumspringa Amish, those who grew up in Amish homes but were on their way out or had already left, and...

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Chapter Four: Schooling: Read’n, Rite’n, ’Rithmatic— but Shunning Darwin

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pp. 69-88

In mainstream society, many young people are only halfway through their formal education when they enter puberty. Not so in Amish society, where all youth complete their formal education by age fifteen at the latest. The Amish think that eight grades are more than adequate to prepare youth to...

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Chapter Five: Parenting: Holding On and Letting Go

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pp. 89-124

Outsiders who are welcomed into an Amish community frequently comment on the richness of family life there. These visitors often report much interaction, conversation, and laughter between parents and their children. A college professor who visited Amish families for many...

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Chapter Six: Teen Culture: Working Hard and Having Fun

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pp. 125-154

More than thirty years ago, I was driving an Amish entrepreneur to our house to install a stove that we had bought from him. This was my first real conversation with a bona fide Amish person. In the course of our discussion, I asked the young father what he hoped for his two-year-old son...

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Chapter Seven: Singings: The First Step to Independence

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pp. 155-174

Although few outsiders ever receive an invitation to an Amish youth singing, those who do may initially wonder what the big attraction is. A typical American teenager would almost certainly be bored attending a similar social activity: sitting on hard wooden benches around long...

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Chapter Eight: Rumspringa: Stepping Out and Running About

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pp. 175-210

Until the two young men from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, were charged by federal agents in summer 1998 with trafficking in cocaine, the word Rumspringa was known only to Pennsylvania German speakers and a few academics who studied the Amish. Since then, it has been cropping...

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Chapter Nine: Courtship: Looking for Love

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pp. 211-240

Although mate selection occurs naturally in every viable society, in a separatist religious group such as the Amish, both the community and the parents are especially invested in their children’s quest to find a mate. Not only do they hope that their children will marry, but all Amish parents...

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Chapter Ten: Weddings: High Times in Plain Places

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pp. 241-274

Hochzeit, the German word for wedding, literally means “high time” and reflects both the importance and the celebration that surround a central event in Amish life. This quintessential Amish experience combines all the elements of life that they value most: faith, family, friends, and...

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Chapter Eleven: The Future: Keeping Faith in a World of Change

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pp. 275-298

Not many Amish, old or young, spend much time ruminating about the abstractions of successful identity formation or cultural viability. Although the older generations may be concerned with the eventual outcome of the young, the Youngie are certainly more focused on the upcoming...

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pp. 299-310

Anyone who has studied the history of the Amish knows that they have been out of step and out of favor with the dominant culture far more than they have been accepted or admired. Most Amish adults know the history of the years of scorn and even severe persecution they have had to endure. Yet many fret that all the positive attention and esteem that currently...


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pp. 311-348


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pp. 349-360


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pp. 361-370

About the Author

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Series Page

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E-ISBN-13: 9781421413723
E-ISBN-10: 1421413728
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421413716
Print-ISBN-10: 142141371X

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 12 halftones
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: second edition

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Amish -- United States -- Social life and customs.
  • Amish teenagers -- Religious life -- United States.
  • Amish teenagers -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Rumspringa.
  • Amish teenagers -- United States -- Social life and customs.
  • Youth -- United States -- Social life and customs.
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