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The Iona Blog

Do children raised by religious parents fare better?

Author: Tom O'Gorman
Date: 19 July 2012

Sometimes, in a culture which often seems to be overwhelmingly anti-religious, parents of faith must feel that raising their children in their religion is an uphill climb.

So it's encouraging to see that there is evidence that the struggle is worth it. This piece, from Family Edge, an Australian website, shows that children raised by religious parents fare better on a range of measures.

It links to an article by Andrew Whitehouse, Associate Professor, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia.

Whitehouse cites a 2008 study “that looked into 'whether growing up in a religious household conveys advantages or disadvantages in the behavioural and emotional development of children'.”

The findings of the study, he says, “turned out to be a bit of a landslide in favour of more religious parents”.

He said: “Children of religious parents were rated by both parents and teachers as having greater self-control, better interpersonal skills, and less likely to have depressive or impulsivity problems. All of these findings were observed even after taking into account ‘sociodemographic’ variables, such as parental education, family income, and child’s gender.”

Whitehouse did cite a number of factors and variables which he felt weren't fully accounted for, such as “whether the questions about parents’ religiosity may in fact be tapping other factors”.

Whitehouse suggests that the better performance of children from religious families might not be a function of belief in “an all-seeing, all-knowing God”.

Instead, he suggests that the “factors that come along with religiosity, such as a particular style of parenting, a certain family structure, or a child’s exposure to a tight-knit and supportive community” might be the reasons for children's better outcomes.

However, even if this is so, the fact remains that these other factors are closely associated with religiosity. They frequently come as a package.

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