Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kids From Religious Families Are Better Behaved

Sociologist John Bartkowski asked the parents and teachers of 16,000 kids how well behaved they were. They wanted to know which kids showed the best self-control, were most skilled in relating to other people, and had the best approach to learning. The verdict: if the whole family went to religious services regularly and talked about their faith, the kids were best behaved.

This makes sense to me. If the whole family shares a moral order together, and with a larger community, and regularly renews their commitment by what they do and what they talk about, the kids have a meaningful world to behave within. The researchers did not know why religious institutions had this effect more strongly than other organizations that involve whole families. I think it is because religious faith offers the widest vision of the meaningful order, but I would be interested in argument on this point.

In any case, though, sociology confirms what most religious people could show examples of. IF the whole family really practices their faith with the kids and without ambivalence, the kids will find it makes sense to relate well with other people, too.

5 comments:

cynthia m. said...

I have found this to be the case in my experience, although my evidence is based purely on my own observation. Something else I have found is that in a family where the parents do not attend religious services but the children are sent to a religious daycare or a religious school, those children are also better behaved...and can also help lead the parents BACK into the religious fold.

Gruntled said...

That raises an interesting possibility. A number of studies of daycare found that it makes kids more aggressive. I don't know anyone who has compared religious to secular daycares in their effects on kids' behavior.

LMR said...

I would add as to the better behaved part that sitting through a religious service requires learning how to behave in public - sitting still, being quiet, listening, etc. I noticed with my children after we switched from a church that had sunday school during the service to one that did not, they found it difficult to sit through the service at first, but over time they have learned to sit still, stand up when people are standing, be quiet during the prayers and sermon, etc.

Elizabeth said...

It seems quite possible to me that "better behaved" might be code for "blindly respects authority, does not question things, sits quietly and is not a nuisance." I noticed that instead of actually observing the children, the conclusions were based on the evaluations of teachers and parents. Certainly teachers tend to want obedient, quiet, compliant, malleable little beings, and in my experience many churchgoing parents want the same.

Gruntled said...

What is the important difference, when you are observering someone else's actions, between "respecting authority" and "blindly respecting authority?"