Study says “Religion is good for kids”!

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.”


Filed under Biblical worldview, encouraging the heart, kids/culture

13 responses to “Study says “Religion is good for kids”!

  1. Dan’s quotations of St. Augustine and Blaise Paschal bring to mind a book our 9th graders read for Bible class, Eternity in Their Hearts (by Don Richardson). Perhaps “homo religio” is a better name for us that “homo sapiens.”

  2. Jana Boss

    When I read this title I immediately thought it was true. I can see religion giving structure and framework for the children. It gives them something to live by and a reason to live. Obviously parents have a big part in this at home because when they are growing up, that is the main place that they learn everything besides academic things. They get characteristics and traits from their parents, brothers, sisters, and other family members. My family was big on religion and that is why I am who I am today. If my parents weren’t the good example to me that they were then I don’t know what kind of person I would be today! I am so grateful for how they raised me and for their great love for me.

  3. Megan Crawley

    I think that what this article has to say is very true. When religion is at the base of the home and when it is practiced, children grow up to be better people. Through religion, people learn how to trust, how to have faith, how to love one another, and how to care for each other and the world we live in. People also learn morals and what is right and wrong. As a Christian, being religious and knowing God is our purpose in life. We were created to be image bearers of Christ and to serve our Maker, and without religion, we wouldn’t know what that means. I also agree with the statement saying that, “when parents argued frequently about religion the children are more likely to have problems.” When this is what happens in a home, children grow up confused and they don’t know what to believe. They don’t have a firm foundation to live their lives upon and they will live their life trying to find something. The truth is however, that we do not have to go out looking for God or for anything else, because God has already found us, and children who grow up in a unified home will have a better understanding of that as well as themselves and their relationship with God. I know that through my experiences growing up, and even my experiences still today, religion plays a huge role. It defines who I am and what I do, and I think that that is why it is so important to have religion in one’s life and why it is good for kids especially.

  4. Danielle Dillon

    Of course religion is good for children. this is where they are first exposed to the truths about God. However, I think people need to be very careful about calling it religion. I have negative thoughts towards religion because I believe it is man made and it divides people. If what they mean by religion means that the children are learning scripture and reading what God has for their lives. No believer can read the Bible and be unchanged by it. Children that have a child like faith will learn and grow from what their parents teach them from the Bible. I do think this needs to be reinforced by the people around them though. I do think children can pick up on hypocrisy, and they can get confused if people around them are not living the things they are being taught.

  5. Megan Van Groningen

    Religion, (basically Christian morals in a Western Culture), is most definitely good for children. It teaches love and trust in a strong family setting. It teaches service and selflessness. It teaches the value of hard work and success that is carried out for a purpose. It gives life a purpose. Living near a large city, I’ve seen the difference between some suburban families and some of the less fortunate broken families in the inner city. From my experience, it was the families that taught Christian morals and used discipline that were generally more happy and successful. The families made up of self-absorbed, argumentative, non-caring members would end up constantly fighting for a goal that they never could achieve instead of learning to be content with the blessings they have. It seemed to me that the more morals played a part in a community, the better off that community did. I was fortunate to be in a loving family with siblings and parents that I refer to as my best friends. They taught me how to get along with others, how to make the world better, and how to do everything for my Lord. I consider myself to be very successful and happy in my situation as a college student now.

  6. Christina Jones

    I would also have to agree with this article. I grew up in a Christian home knowing that not only could I turn to my family if I ever needed anything but most importantly I could turn to Jesus! I know for me whenever I had the desire to rebel growing I was stopped when I realized the consequences were not worth whatever the thing was I was about to do. Not that I didn’t ever make the wrong choice and rebel, I did, but I think less than my friends in High school who were not raised in this environment.
    Growing in that environment and with the knowledge ever since I was little of Jesus and what he did I think gave me the desire to become more responsible,& to trust as well.

  7. Christina Jones

    I feel that growing up in a religious environment does help children to become better humans who care about others before themselves. I feel that growing up in this environment helped me become a more responsible adult and I feel that I rebeled less as well. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t rebel at all, I simply mean that when I considered it I thought twice a lot of times when some of my High school friends didn’t.

  8. Sara Cease

    I definitely agree that religion and the Christian faith is important for parents to be teaching their children. But not everyone comes from a Christian home. Even though I went to a Lutheran church until I was a freshman in high school, I never took it as my own. It wasn’t until I was invited to a youth group by some of my friends in high school that I realized that a faith in Jesus Christ was the most important thing. I think that it is a good thing to teach your children, and if I get married and have children of my own, I will be setting a good example to them and teach them about my faith. You can teach your children all you want, but it is up to them to own it and to believe in it. I think that as parents you need to set the example, but it is up to them to own thier faith.

  9. Matt Kamien

    Teaching religion is good for our kids. It reinforces what they learned in church and in Sunday school. It also provides a way for kids to learn about God if they come from a famil that does not go to church every week. It make sures the kids do no get left behind in their education of religion. Besides reinforcing what you learn at church, it also allow kids to explore more about religion that they would not be able to in a church. One year at my school, we had a semester long class on church history. We learned how the church was started and all the different denominations that evloved. In teaching, you are going to try and reinforce what you just taught so the students understand you. That is what religion class does for the church. Reinforces what the church tells them.

  10. Danielle DeRoos

    Reading this article, I see both sides of the spectrum. Children that are brought up in a religious or Christian homes are definitely most likely to follow by example. They will learn more than those who are not blessed with Christian parents and they will see the love of Christ through their parents more often than not. Growing up with Christian parents is a very good thing as long as religion is not forced to heavily on the children. Often times forced religion causes kids to rebel and run away from any religious beliefs.
    Growing up in a broken home where both my parents believed different things has given me a wider perspective on this question. I have grown so much in my life time and in my faith with Jesus Christ, not because of my parents, but because of the other adult leaders that God has placed in my life. I think that religion is so good for children to have, especially at a young age. It’s important to get the basics and begin becoming grounded in faith when you are younger. But I do not think it always has to come from your parents. Although it is such a blessing to have parents that teach you about Christ’s love since birth, sometimes other people can have a larger impact on you. That has definitely been true in my situations.

  11. Ashley Biesboer

    I agree greatly with what is discussed about faith helping to create better behavior in children. Growing up in a house that was focused on Christ, I believe that it gave me more perspective and allowed for me to be more aware of my behavior and the things that needed to change within me. If a family does a good job of instilling Christian morals in their children, it is easily seen. As children grow and realize what being a Christian means, they see that past behaviors (ie hurting others with words, actions, physical violence, creating problems for their parents, etc.) is not pleasing or honoring to the Lord. He wants us to act accordingly and to reflect His attitude, and in order to do that we need to be respectful of others and care for them, thus creating an “others centered”, respectful, mindset.

  12. David Kreis

    I can easily agree with this post. I feel that many of the main beliefs of most religions are the same in that they stress values and beliefs of how to be a better person. From the golden rule to the Ten Commandments all of these values and religious laws help guide us to become a better person. I feel that this could affect children on even a greater level due to the fact that at this time in their life, they are in the most impressionable part of their lives. It is during these times that children need to learn these values and make them part of their life.

  13. Nicole

    Can these things exist still without religion though?

    That is the much more important question. Although children with it can grow as discussed, but there are many that grow with it that do not become moral adults. My parents were raised in religious households but did not mandate it into my life, rather it was introduced and left alone. I was not baptized, not do I attend church, yet I have strong spirituality and clear ethical line. I never studied the Ten Commandments but I will never need too as I hold humanity in me already.

    It is what you teach your children and what they see that they will become, no matter what the medium.

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