Journal of Religious Education

, Volume 65, Issue 1–3, pp 81–93 | Cite as

The concept of the child through a spiritual lens: implications for interdisciplinary approaches and Religious Education



Developing an understanding of what is meant by the terms ‘child’ and ‘childhood’ is essential for teachers as it shapes their approaches to teaching and learning (Grajczonek in J Relig Educ 59(4):40–47, 2011). Contemporary discourse on these meanings is dominated by sociologists working in the field of the ‘new sociology of childhood’ but this paper argues that notions of spirituality also need to be considered. The paper re-interprets data collected from children aged 7–11 (n = 56) in England about their perceptions of childhood. Previous analysis (Adams, Int J Prim Elem Early Years Edu 41(5):527–537, 2013; Adams, Camb J Edu 44(2):163–178, 2014) was contextualised entirely in sociological theory. However, whilst that analysis facilitated a coherent and meaningful exploration of childhood which synthesised children’s perspectives with theory, this paper argues that sociology alone was insufficient. Without a spiritual lens, the very nature of the children themselves and their descriptions of childhood were lacking. This paper revisits the data and, whilst acknowledging the centrality and value of sociology’s contribution, it re-interrogates the data from the perspective of spirituality. Key themes emerging are: relationship with self; relationship with others; connectedness; beings and becomings, and its darker aspects. The paper concludes that interdisciplinary approaches to understanding childhood should also include the spiritual. The implications of the findings for Religious Education are discussed.


Childhood Children’s spirituality Child’s voice Cambridge Primary Review New sociology of childhood Children’s views of childhood 


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Copyright information

© Australian Catholic University 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research and Knowledge Exchange Centre, Masters’ LodgeUniversity of WinchesterWinchesterUK

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