MISSISSIPPI, April 25, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Children with religious parents are better behaved and appear happier than children raised by parents without the influence of religious faith, a new study has shown.
The first to examine the impact of religion on the development of young children, the study was authored by John Bartkowski, a sociologist with Mississippi State University. Bartkowski's team questioned the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 children, asking the adults to rate the children--most of them age six--on self-control, frequency of poor or unhappy behavior, and their ability to respect and work with peers. The results were compared to the parents' rate of attendence at church services, how frequently they talked about faith with their child, and whether or not there was arguing over religion in the home.
The children of parents who regularly attended church services and talked with their child about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as showing better behavior, self-control skills and social skills than children from non-religious families. Children whose parents both attended church regulary were rated as having the best behavior and being the most well-adjusted.
Bartkowski attributed the impact of parental faith on children to three factors, according to a special LiveScience report published April 24. The community support provided by a religious congregation could be a help to parents in improving their parenting skills and reinforcing the guidelines they offer their children, Bartkowski said. The children might be influenced by hearing those same guidelines expressed by others and "take more to heart the messages that they get in the home."
As well, religious congregations tend to emphasize self-sacrificing, pro-family values, which could be "very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response."
The sacred meaning and importance given to the role of parents by religious denominations was a third factor identified by Bartkowski as having an impact on the well-being of children.
Disputes and arguments in the home over religion, however, were correlated with increased problems for the children. "Religion can hurt if faith is a source of conflict or tension in the family," Bartkowski said.
The study did not account for the possiblity that parents of better-behaved children would be more likely to attend a religious service, nor did it compare the impact different denominations may have on child behavior.
â??We really donâ??t know if conservative Protestant kids are behaving better than Catholic kids or behaving better than mainline Protestant kids or Jewish kids," Bartkowski said. The study will be published in the journal Social Science Research.
In a study examining the positive effects of religion on health, released last year, researchers found that regular church-goers tend to live longer. Published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, the study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that people who went to church at least once a week lived on average an additional two to three years over those who did not attend church regularly.
See related LifesiteNews coverage:
Churchgoers Live Longer