Religiosity Affects Value Development in Children
22 November 2010
Religion and the values associated with it play a crucial role in the socialisation of children. Acceptance of religious value orientations has an impact on the formation of values in other areas and hence on the way youngsters lead their lives as they grow older. This is the initial outcome of a longitudinal study conducted by the “Religion and Society” research group. The group assembles theologians and social scientists from the universities of Tübingen, Bonn, Heidelberg and Dortmund and the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt am Main. It investigates the processes of value inculcation affected by religiosity. The three-year research project is being funded by the German Research Foundation with over 600,000 euros.
“In modern societies, Christian religion has lost significance in terms of the number of churchgoers,” says sociologist Dr. Dieter Hermann of Heidelberg University’s Institute of Criminology. “But at the same time we see that in the last few years religion is again becoming increasingly important for many people.” In this context, the research group is investigating how religious value orientations evolve and what significance they have for the trust we place in institutions and fellow humans. The researchers are focussing their attention on the religious socialisation of eight- and nine-year-old children in Germany. In the course of the study, several thousand children and parents will be asked to respond to written questionnaires. Here religiosity is not restricted to Christianity, though one priority concern is the significance of communion instruction for Catholic children.
The first of the four questionnaire stages has already been completed. The outcome suggests that Christian religiosity goes hand in hand with greater trust in institutions and other persons. “Trust is part of a society’s social capital and is associated with societal stability, political participation and the acceptance of democratic forms of governance,” say Heidelberg researchers Prof. Hermann and Dr. Angelika Treibel. The analyses also show that religious value orientations play a major role in the socialisation of children. Surprisingly, says Prof. Hermann, the close connection between parents and children is limited to religious values. In other fields, the correspondence between children’s and parents’ values is noticeably less marked. “Here the children’s orientation is largely instigated by the parents,” Prof. Hermann concludes.
Alongside Prof. Hermann, the other members of the “Religion and Society” research group are religious educationists Prof. Dr. Albert Biesinger (Tübingen) and Prof. Dr. Reinhold Boschki (Bonn), theologian Prof. Dr. Norbert Mette (Dortmund) and Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Kießling of the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt am Main. For more information on the project, which started in March 2010, go to www.frg.de.tf .
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