How religion impacts development in young children
Religion has been linked to a number of positive developmental characteristics in young children and its role in socialising young children has gained a great deal of attention in recent years. A bulk of the research has found religion to be beneficial on adolescent disposition but increasing attention is shifting to religion’s influence in the development of elementary and middle school kids. The questions that researchers attempted to answer in this latest research is whether children raised by religious parents have a better social and psychological development that those raised in non-religious homes?
The most negative effects of parental worship service attendance were seen in math test performance, but similar findings were observed for reading and science tests too.
The researchers analysed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS)-Kindergarten Cohort. They examined how parents’ religious attendance (for fathers, mothers, and couples) and the household religious environment (parent-child religious discussions, spousal conflicts over religion) influenced child development of third-graders. The researchers reviewed the children’s psychological adjustment (e.g., self-control), interpersonal skills, problem behaviours and performance on standardised tests in reading maths and science.
The researchers found that the children’s psychological adjustment and social competence was positively related to various religious factors. However, the students’ academic performances on reading, math and science tests were hampered by several forms of parental religiosity. The most negative effects of parental worship service attendance were seen in math test performance, but similar findings were observed for reading and science tests too. However, not all forms of religiosity led to negative outcomes on academic achievement. More frequent parent-child discussions of religion significantly improved test scores for reading. This suggests that such conversations—perhaps practised as scripture study or religious devotionals within the home—might enhance children’s literacy. Also, some forms of parental religiosity (fathers’ attendance and both spouses attending semiregularly or frequently) had a positive outcome on children’s approach to learning as rated by the teachers. The study found that religious solidarity among couple and communication between parent and children were associated with positive development, but religious conflict among parents was linked to negative outcomes in children.
The study finds that parental religion and religious environment in the household can be a mixed blessing for children, helping them significantly in social and psychological development. However certain religious factors can undermine academic performance, particularly in maths and science.