Children from religious families are less kind and more judgmental, according to a new study.
Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious kids to see if there was a correlation between religion and morality, and found that religious belief can have a negative influence on children.
Almost 1,200 children aged between five and 12 took part in the study across the US, Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey and South Africa. 43 per cent were Muslim, 24 per cent were Christian, and 27.6 per cent were non-religious (the numbers of Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic and other children who took part were deemed too small to be statistically valid).
The report, The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across The World, has been published in Current Biology.
“Overall, our findings… contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors.
“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that desecularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness — in fact, it will do just the opposite.”
The children were asked to choose stickers. They were then told there were not enough stickers for all the children in their school, to test if they would share.
The kids were also shown footage of children pushing and bumping each other to gauge their responses.
The authors claim that the results of the tests were comprehensive, as their findings “robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households”.
Older children exhibited the most negative relations between morality and religion, perhaps because they had been exposed to religion the longest.
The study also found that children from religious households “frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions”.
At the same time that religious children were found wanting in the morality department, the report found that parents of religious children were more likely to consider their children to be “more empathetic and more sensitive to the plight of others”, reflecting the popular assumption the authors have refuted with their study.
Do you think religion has an impact on morality? Would you be less likely to raise your child to be religious as a result of the study’s findings? Let us know in the comments below!