Religion and Child Well-Being

  • George W. Holden
  • Paul Alan Williamson


Religion is a potent cultural force. Although sacred writings provide limited guidance regarding child well-being, interpretations of those writings inform many parents and others. Psychologists have discussed the relation between religion and children’s well-being since the beginning of the discipline. Empirical studies into children and religion began in the 1950s; however the first study to explicitly examine the religion and children’s well-being was published in 1979. The evidence that has accumulated since then is remarkably consistent: Religiosity in families is positively associated with child and youth well-being. In the areas of health behaviors, mental health and internalizing problems, aggression and externalizing problems, and even cognitive development, there are numerous studies documenting the association. Although the strength of the association is not always strong, the evidence almost always reveals a positive relation between religion and well-being. There are two types of exceptions. First, there are circumstances when religious beliefs can be detrimental to youth well-being. The other exception occurs in cases where religious leaders use or religion is used as a justification to maltreat children. Consequently, a blanket assertion that religion is associated with child well-being cannot be made. In addition, there are several limitations to the current body of research. The many ways in which religion is thought to be linked to child well-being are identified, including through the child, social networks, marital relations, and parenting. Finally, directions for future research are proposed.


Religious Belief Religious Coping Religious Practice Corporal Punishment Church Attendance 
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.



We thank Duaa Bayan for her assistance on the section regarding Islam and Mark Chancey, Ph.D., for his thoughtful comments and suggestions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA

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