A recent study of 16,000 children, mostly first graders, led researchers to conclude that religion has a very positive effect on self-control, behavior, and peer relationships. The Mississippi State team also found that “when parents argued frequently about religion the children are more likely to have problems.”
This research is supportive of what Christians have long known and believed – the home environment is critical for children’s early faith development and that the commonality of beliefs by marriage partners is very important. The findings of this study also support what Smith and Denton found in their study of teens (see post of 10/11/06): we (parents) get what we are – in other words kids spirituality reflects what they see modeled by their parents – it’s tough to fool kids when they are with you on a 24/7 basis.
In explaining why kids are good as a result of religion, lead researcher John Bartkowski remarks that children benefit from the networks of other religious adults who reinforce the parental messages and consequently children “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home.” Sounds like home, church, and Christian school to me!
The disconnect between understanding research and understanding the impact of a living relationship with one’s Creator is demonstrated by this comment in the article:
“But as for why religious organizations might provide more of a boost to family life than secular organizations designed to do the same thing, that’s still somewhat of a mystery, said Annette Mahoney, a psychologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio… Mahoney wondered: ‘Is there anything about religion and spirituality that sets it apart?’
Is there indeed? St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, dear Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” Blaise Paschal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”