Religion, Spirituality, and Child Well-Being

Abstract

In this chapter, child well-being is related to the concept of spirituality. Spirituality is addressed both as a recent social phenomenon and as a new field of research. To prepare for a definition, spirituality is first distinguished from religion and religiousness before an attempt is made at giving a core definition and a comprehensive definition. Spirituality is then related to the concepts of spiritual development, spiritual education, and spiritual well-being, and the question is asked: How can spiritual well-being be measured – and achieved?

Spirituality is a fairly recent social phenomenon that may be a reaction to the trend of secularization and the turning away from traditional religion. There may also be a kind of counterrevolution against the tide of materialism and economic rationalism which led David Tacey to speak of a “spirituality revolution” (Tacey, D. (2004). The Spirituality Revolution. The emergence of contemporary spirituality. London/New York: Routledge).

In child research, too, there has been a surge of interest in spirituality and spiritual well-being, as can be seen by recent publications on the subject, accompanied by efforts to involve children as experts on their own spirituality. Children seem to have a natural, even inborn, spirituality, regardless of their being religious or not.

There seems to be an ambiguity with regard to the relationship between spirituality and religion. “There’s religion, and there’s the spirit,” Robert Coles quotes his own son as saying (Coles 1990, p. xvii). While some people see spirituality overlapping with religiousness, many others see a clear distinction between the two. Hence, this chapter investigates in what way the two concepts overlap and where they differ. The key to sorting out this problem may be in a person’s genuine experience – call it religious or spiritual. That experience is said to be an encounter with transcendent reality – or, at least, with a reality that is beyond the self.

Researchers have struggled to arrive at a consensus with regard to a definition of spirituality. This chapter looks afresh at the definitional problem. It takes a close look at an important survey on children’s spirituality, drawing lessons from it in order to approach the definitional problem. As a core definition, this chapter follows Benson et al. who describe spiritual development as “the process of growing the intrinsic human capacity for self-transcendence in which the self is embedded in something greater than the self” (Benson et al. Applied Developmental Science 7:204–212, 2003). But this chapter also goes a step further in offering a comprehensive definition involving the following six components: (1) congregational grounding or embedment, (2) relationship with others (family, friends, peers, and neighbors), (3) relationship with oneself, (4) relationship to a transcendent reality, (5) values and convictions, and (6) sense of responsibility. Such a broad, all-encompassing definition is deemed necessary not only to honor the holistic nature of spirituality but also to ensure that spirituality can be understood as positively contributing to children’s well-being.

Lastly, in order to ensure spirituality actually does have a positive effect on children’s well-being, this chapter looks at how spiritual well-being can be defined, achieved, and even be measured. Spiritual well-being is defined as the contribution that spirituality (the capacity for self-transcendence) can make toward the fulfillment of a child’s unique potential. It is also assumed that only by measuring spiritual well-being on the basis of well-defined indicators will we be able to document the positive effects of spirituality.

Keywords

Religious Tradition Religious Experience Spiritual Experience Spiritual Dimension Spiritual Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Alexander, H. A., & Carr, D. (2006). Philosophical issues in spiritual education and development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 73–91). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, H. C. (2008). Nurturing children’s spirituality. Christian perspectives and best practices. Eugene: Cascade.Google Scholar
  3. Benson, P. L., Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Rude, S. P. (2003). Spiritual development in childhood and adolescence: Toward a field of inquiry. Applied Developmental Science 7, 204–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bischof, N. (1998). Das Kraftfeld der Mythen. Signale aus der Zeit, in der wir die Welt erschaffen haben. München: Piper.Google Scholar
  5. Boyatzis, C. J. (2008). Children’s spiritual development: Advancing the field in definition, measurement, and theory. In H. C. Allen (Ed.), Nurturing children’s spirituality (pp. 43–57). Eugene: Cascade.Google Scholar
  6. Children’s Worlds Study. www.childrensworlds.org
  7. Coles, R. (1990). The spiritual life of children. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  8. Crawford, E., Wright, M. O., & Masten, A. S. (2006). Resilience and spirituality in youth. In E. C. Roehlepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 355–370). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Donnelly, T. M., Matsuba, M. K., Hart, D., & Atkins, R. (2006). The relationship between spiritual development and civic development. In E. C. Roelkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 239–251). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dowling, E. M., Gestdottir, S., Anderson, P. M., von Eye, A., Almerigi, J., & Lerner, R. M. (2004). Structural relations among spirituality, religiosity, and thriving in adolescence. Applied Developmental Science 8(1), 7–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. EIESP. (2012). Learning for well-being. Paris: European Institute of Education and Social Policy.Google Scholar
  12. Einloth, S. R. (2010). Building strong foundations. World vision’s focus on early childhood development and child well-being. Friedrichsdorf, see: http://www.worldvision-institut.de/_downloads/allgemein/TheorieUndPraxis_5_StrongFoundations.pdf: World Vision Institute.
  13. Erikson, E. H. (1973). Identität und Lebenszyklus. Berlin: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  14. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  15. Goldman, R. (1964). Religious thinking from childhood to adolescence. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  16. Gorsuch, R., & Walker, D. (2006). Measurement and research design in studying spiritual development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 92–103). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gottlieb, A. (2006). Non-western approaches to spiritual development among infants and young children: A case study from West Africa. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 150–162). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Granqvist, P., & Dickie, J. R. (2006). Attachment and spiritual development in childhood and adolescence. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 197–210). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hart, T. (2006). Spiritual experiences and capacities of children and youth. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 163–177). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hay D., & Nye R. (1998/2006). The spirit of the child. London/Philadelphia: Kingsley/Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  21. Hay, D., Reich, H., & Utsch, M. (2006). Spiritual development. Intersections and divergence with religious development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 46–59). Thousand Oaks/London/New Delhi: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Helminiak, D. A. (1996). The Human Core of Spirituality. Mind as Psyche and Spirit, New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  23. Inglehart, R., Basanez, M., Díez-Medrano, J., Halman, L., & Luijkx, R. (2004). Human beliefs and values: A cross-cultural sourcebook based upon the 1999–2002 values survey. Mexico: Siglo Veintiuno Editores.Google Scholar
  24. James, W. (1902/1936). The varieties of religious experience. New York: Modern Library.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jeans, J. (1942). Physics and Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kelemen, D. (2004). Are children ‘Intuitive Theists’? - reasoning about purpose and design in nature. Psychological Science 15(5), 295–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. King, P. E., & Benson, P. L. (2006). Spiritual development and adolescent well-being and thriving. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 384–398). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kneezel, T. T., & Emmons, R. A. (2006). Personality and spiritual development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 266–278). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Koenig, H. G., McCullough, M. E., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Handbook of religion and health. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kroeger, M. (24 April 2011). Die Welt ist voll von Werten (“The world is full of values”). Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 11.Google Scholar
  31. Larson, D. B., Swyers, J. P., & McCullough, M. E. (1998). Scientific research on spirituality and health: A consensus report. Rockville: National Institute of Healthcare Research.Google Scholar
  32. Lerner, R. M., Alberts, A. E., Anderson, P. M., & Dowling, E. M. (2006). On making humans human: Spirituality and the promotion of positive youth development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 60–72). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lippman, L. H., & Keith, J. D. (2006). The demographics of spirituality among youth: International perspectives. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 109–123). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Main, G. (2010). Religion, spirituality, beliefs, and child well-being: Exploring the links. York: unpublished.Google Scholar
  35. Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1998). The cultural psychology of personality. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 29, 63–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Murphy, L. B. (1987). Further reflections on resilience. In E. J. Anthony & B. J. Cohler (Eds.), The invulnerable child (pp. 84–104). New York/London: Guildford.Google Scholar
  37. Newberg, A. B., & Newberg, S. K. (2006). A neuropsychological perspective on spiritual development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 183–196). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nye, R. (1999). Relational consciousness and the spiritual lives of children: Convergence with children’s theory of mind. In K. H. Reich, F. K. Oser, & W. G. Scarlett (Eds.), Psychological studies on spiritual and religious development, Vol. 2: Being human: The case of religion (pp. 57–82). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  39. Otto, R. (1917/2004). Das Heilige. Über das irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen. München: C.H. Beck.Google Scholar
  40. Paloutzian, R. F., & Park, C. L. (2005). Integrative themes in the current science of the psychology of religion. In R. F. Paloutzian & C. L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 3–20). New York/London: Guildford.Google Scholar
  41. Ratcliff, D. (2004). Children’s spirituality. Christian perspectives, spirituality and applications. Eugene: Cascade.Google Scholar
  42. Ratcliff, D. (2008). “The spirit of children past”: A century of children’s spirituality research. In H. C. Allen (Ed.), Nurturing children’s spirituality. Christian perspectives and best practices (pp. 21–42). Eugene: Cascade.Google Scholar
  43. Ratcliff, D., & Nye, R. (2006). Childhood spirituality: Strengthening the research foundation. In E. C. Roelkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 473–483). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rees, G., Bradshaw, J., Goswami, H., & Keung, A. (2010). Understanding children’s well-being: A national survey of young people’s well-being. London: The Children’s Society.Google Scholar
  45. Roehlkepartain, E. C., King, P. L., Wagener, L. M., & Benson, P. L. (Eds.). (2006a). The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  46. Roehlkepartain, E. C., Benson, P. L., King, P. E., & Wagener, L. M. (2006b). Spiritual development in childhood and adolescence: Moving to the scientific mainstream. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. L. King, L. M. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolscence (pp. 1–11). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Roehlkepartain, E. C. & Patel, E. (2006c). Congregations: Unexamined crucibles for spiritual development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. L. King, L. M. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolscence (pp. 324–336). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Search Institute. (2008). With their own voices: A global exploration of how today’s young people experience and think about spiritual development. Minneapolis: Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence (Search Institute).Google Scholar
  49. Smart, N. (2002). Weltgeschichte des Denkens. Die geistigen Traditionen der Menschheit. Darmstadt: WBG.Google Scholar
  50. Tacey, D. (2004). The spirituality revolution. The emergence of contemporary spirituality. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Tillich, P. (1951). Systematic theology (Vol. 1). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  52. UN. (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. New York.Google Scholar
  53. Walker, L. J., & Reimer, K. S. (2006). The relationship between moral and spiritual development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 224–238). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Whitehead, A. N. (1947/1968). Science and philosophy. New York: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  55. World Vision Institute. (2007/2010). World Vision Studie: Kinder in Deutschland. Frankfurt/Main: S. Fischer.Google Scholar
  56. Yust, K. M., Johnson, A. N., Sasso, S. E., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2005). Nurturing child and adolescent spirituality. Perspectives from the world’s religious traditions. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.World Vision Institute for Research and InnovationFriedrichsdorfGermany

Personalised recommendations