Wednesday, May 02, 2007

God is Great, God is Good...For Kids

Here's a newsflash that's right up my alley, as a social scientist and practicing Catholic. A group of researchers has conducted a study that tries to get at the connection, if any, between the religiosity of parents and the behavior of children. After studying about 16,000 first graders, these researchers have concluded that kids whose parents regularly attend religious services are better behaved and adjusted than other children. This result especially holds when both parents practice their religion together. In fact, in families where parents argue all the time about religion, kids were more likely to exhibit behavioral and emotional problems. So religion can apparently hurt in some contexts.

So what is driving this connection between religion and childhood behavior? And couldn't it be the other way around? That is, maybe it is parents with well-behaved children who tend to go to church together. Or let's put it the other way. Who wants to sit through a service with a child who can't stay still and who is constantly making one noise or another?

As a research methodologist, this chicken-and-egg question is absolutely something I would like to learn more about before coming to any firm conclusions about the true nature of the association in question. In fact, there are a number of measurement and research design questions that I would like to have answered. I guess I just need to go read the article, which is being published in a journal called Social Science Research.

In the meantime, here is my favorite quote about the article. It's from a professor who is unaffiliated with the study. He says that, for parents who are very religious, "getting their kids into Heaven is more important than getting their kids into Harvard."

Amen! (Although Harvard would be nice, and there is what looks to be a steeple of some sort in the background of this picture I recently snapped...)



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