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Rumspringa (also Rumschpringe or Rumshpringa, derived from the Pennsylvania German term for "running around") generally refers to a period of adolescence for some members of the Amish, a subsect of the Anabaptist Christian movement, that begins around the age of sixteen and ends when a youth chooses baptism within the Amish church or instead leaves the community.[1]:10-11 The vast majority choose baptism and remain in the church.[1]:14 Not all Amish use this term (it does not occur in Hostetler's extended discussion of adolescence), but in sects that do, Amish elders generally view this as a time for courtship and finding a spouse.[1]:14

Popularized view

As is the case in many societies, Amish adolescents may engage in rebellious behavior, resisting or defying parental norms. In many cultures, enforcement may be relaxed, and misbehavior tolerated or overlooked to a degree. A view of rumspringa has emerged in popular culture that this divergence from custom is an accepted part of adolescence or a rite of passage for Amish youth. Among the Amish who use this term, however, rumspringa simply refers to adolescence. During that time a certain amount of misbehavior is unsurprising and is not so severely condemned (for instance, by Meidung or shunning). Adults who have made a permanent and public commitment to the faith would be held to the higher standards of behavior defined in part by the Schleitheim and Dordrecht confessions.[2]:75 In a narrow sense the young are not bound by the Ordnung because they have not taken adult membership in the church. Amish adolescents do remain however under the strict authority of parents who are bound to Ordnung, and there is no period when adolescents are formally "released" from these rules.[3]:154[4]:165-166[5]:105

A minority of Amish youth do diverge from established customs.[1]:13 Some may be found:[1]:10-11

  • Wearing non-traditional clothing and hair styles (referred to as dressing "English")
  • Driving vehicles other than horse-drawn vehicles (for communities that eschew motor vehicles)
  • Not attending home prayer
  • Drinking and/or using recreational drugs
  • Engaging in pre-marital sex

Not all youth diverge from custom during this period; approximately half in the larger communities and the majority in smaller Amish communities remain within the norms of Amish dress or behavior during adolescence.[1]:13

Leaving the community

Some Amish youth do indeed separate themselves from the community, even going to live among the "English", or non-Amish North Americans, experiencing modern technology and perhaps even experimenting with sex, drugs, and alcohol. Their behavior during this time represents no necessary bar to returning for adult baptism into the Amish church. Most of them do not wander far from their family's homes during this time, and large numbers ultimately choose to join the church. However this proportion varies from community to community, and within a community between more and less acculturated Amish. For example, Swartzendruber Amish have a higher retention rate than the New Order Amish within the Holmes County, Ohio community. This figure was significantly lower as recently as the 1950s. Desertion from the Amish community is not a long-term trend, and was more of a problem in the early colonial years.[3]:102


As among the non-Amish, there is variation among communities and individual families as to the best response to adolescent misbehavior.

In some cases, patience and forbearance prevail, and in others, vigorous discipline. Far from an open separation from parental ways, the misbehavior of young people during the rumspringa is usually furtive, though often collective (this is especially true in smaller and more isolated populations; the larger communities are discussed below). Groups of Amish adolescents may meet in town and change into "English" clothing, and share tobacco, alcohol and marijuana; girls may put on jewelry and cosmetics. They may or may not mingle with non-Amish in these excursions. The age is marked normatively in some Amish communities by allowing the young man to purchase a small "courting buggy," or—in some communities—by painting the yard-gate blue (traditionally meaning "daughter of marriageable age living here"; the custom is noted by A.M. Aurand in The Amish (1938) along with the reasonable caution that sometimes a blue gate is just a blue gate). There is some opinion that adolescent rebellion tends to be more radical, more institutionalized (and therefore in a sense more accepted) in the more restrictive communities.

The nature of the rumspringa period differs from individual to individual and from community to community. In large Amish communities like those of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Logan, Hardin, Wayne, and Holmes Counties, Ohio, and Elkhart and LaGrange Counties, Indiana, the Amish are numerous enough that there exists an Amish youth subculture. During the rumspringa period, the Amish youth in these large communities will join one of various groups ranging from the most rebellious to the least. These groups are not divided across traditional Amish church district boundaries. In many smaller communities, Amish youth may have a much more restricted rumspringa period due to the smaller size of the communities. Likewise, they may be less likely to partake in strong rebellious behavior since the anonymity offered in the larger communities is absent.

Wenger Mennonites youth go through a period of rumspringa between ages 16 and 18. They typically do not get into the type of serious offenses of the most disorderly of the Amish groups.[6]:169-73,244


Rumspringa, literally "running around" in Pennsylvania German, is a contraction of rum, an adverb meaning "around" (also used as a separable prefix as in the case of rumschpringe), and the verb schpringen, meaning "to run" or "to skip."

The word rumspringa is closely related to the standard German word herumspringen. Omitting the he syllable leaving only the rum is widely accepted in colloquial Pennsyvania Dutch German and does not change the meaning of the prefix. The modern German word springen means "to jump"; herumspringen in this sense would mean something like "hopping around." In Swiss German as in some German dialects, springe however does - besides meaning "to jump" - also mean "to run". In modern German "to skip" would rather be translated with the verb hüpfen.

Media coverage

Rumspringa is the subject of the film documentary Devil's Playground, which was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary as well as three Emmy Awards (Best Documentary, Best Editing, Best Cinematography). Spin-offs from Devil's Playground include a book of Walker's transcribed interviews Rumspringa: To Be Or Not To Be Amish and a UPN reality television series Amish in the City.

The popularized view of Rumspringa provides a satirical backdrop to the film Sex Drive


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Shachtman, Tom (2006). Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish. New York: North Point Press (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). 
  2. Bowman, Carl Desportes. (1995). Brethren Society: The Cultural Transformation of a Peculiar People. ISBN 0-8018-4905-5. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hostetler, John A. (1993). Amish Society (4th ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 
  4. Igou, Brad, ed (1999). The Amish in their Own Words: Amish Writings from 25 Years of Family Life Magazine. Scottsdale, Pennsylvania and Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press. 
  5. Nolt, Steven M. (1992). A History of the Amish. Intercourse, Pennsylvania: Good Books. 
  6. Kraybill, Donald B; Hurd, James P. (2006). Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites hoofbeats of humility in a postmodern world. Penn State Press. ISBN 0271028661. 

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Rumspringa. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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