A recent study correlating children’s happiness and spirituality ~ apparently at the expense of more conventional religion ~ is getting a fair share of press. But there’s a lot of hair-splitting going on in the articles, and perhaps in the study itself.
It appears “religion” is equated with “organized religion,” in other words, conventional denominations and regular attendance. “Spirituality,” however, is defined as “meaning and value in one’s own life.”
According to an article in LiveScience:
Personal aspects of spirituality (meaning and value in one's own life) and communal aspects (quality and depth of inter-personal relationships) were both strong predictors of children's happiness, said study leader Mark Holder from the University of British Columbia in Canada and his colleagues Ben Coleman and Judi Wallace.
However, religious practices were found to have little effect on children's happiness, Holder said. Religion is just one institutionalized venue for the practice of or experience of spirituality, and some people say they are spiritual but are less enthusiastic about the concept of God. Other research has shown a connection between well-adjusted and well-behaved children and religion, but that is not the same, necessarily, as happiness.
A child's temperament was also an important predictor of happiness, according to LiveScience. Happier children were more sociable and less shy. The relationship between spirituality and happiness remained strong, even when the authors took temperament into account.
Somewhat counterintuitively, religious practices — including attending church, praying and meditating — had little effect on a child's happiness.
"Enhancing personal meaning may be a key factor in the relation between spirituality and happiness," the researchers stated. Strategies aimed at increasing personal meaning in children ~ such as expressing kindness towards others and recording these acts of kindness, as well as acts of altruism and volunteering ~ may help to make children happier, Holder suggests.
Click here for the complete LiveScience article.