Religious and Spiritual Development in Childhood
Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality / edited by Raymond F.
Paloutzian, Crystal L. Park. (p.21-42)
Religious and Spiritual Development in Childhood
CHRIS J. BOYATZIS
This chapter addresses aspects of children's religious development. The discussion is restricted to childhood, as adolescent development is discussed elsewhere (Levenson, Aldwin, & D'Mello, Chapter 8, this volume). This chapter has several major goals: (1) to examine psychologists' historical neglect and recent interest in religious and spiritual development (hereafter RSD); (2) to provide a selective review of advances in research; (3) to examine the hegemony of two paradigms in RSD: (a) cognitive-developmentalism's focus on how children think about religion, and (b) socialization models presuming that children are socialized religiously via unilateral parent?child "transmission"; (4) to encourage work on how children's RSD is affected by parental, contextual, and sociocultural factors; and (5) to recommend new directions in paradigm, theory, methods, and data. A "multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm" (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003) will be suggested, in which psychologists use multiple measures and multiple theoretical frameworks and draw from multiple disciplines beyond the boundaries of the mainstream academic study of RSD.
PSYCHOLOGISTS' NEGLECT AND RECENT DISCOVERY
OF RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
Spirituality and religion are important, perhaps central, dimensions of human development. Data from American adolescents (Gallup & Bezilla, 1992) show that 95% believe in God and three-quarters try to follow the teachings of their religion. Almost half of U.S. youth say they frequently pray alone and 36% are involved in church youth groups. In a 1999-2000 Search Institute national survey of 6th- to 12th-grade youth, 54% said that "being religious or spiritual" was quite or extremely important (Benson, Roehlkepartain, & Rude, 2003). Religion is also important to most U.S. families. About 40% attend wor-ship weekly, 95% of U.S. parents have a religious affiliation, and more than 90% want their children to receive some form of religious education (Mahoney, Pargament, Swank, & Tarakeshwar, 2001).
However, database reviews have found that less than 1% of articles on children address spirituality (Benson et al., 2003) and in PsycINFO a meretwo-thirds of one percent of all records on children (almost 150,000) address children "andreligion" (Boyatzis, 2003a). The latter search found that children appears with "God" in 90 records, "church" in 76, and "faith" in 43 (or 3 per 10,000 records). In contrast, children "and family" appear in about 16,000 records. Children "and enuresis" (bedwetting) has almost five times more records than children "and faith," and children "and autism" appear about 78 times more often than children "and God." PsycINFO and Sociological Abstracts records are rare on children and Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism (Boyatzis, 2003a), a neglect incommensurate with the popularity of these religions.
Fortunately, a call has been issued for psychology to "honor spiritual development as a core developmental process that deserves equal standing in the pantheon of universal developmental processes" (Benson, 2004, p. 50). To achieve this goal, scholars must work toward a comprehensive understanding that will require the study of RSD in interaction with many developmental domains (cognition, social relations, emotions, etc.) and disciplines (e.g., anthropology, sociology). Growth will also require advances in paradigm, theory, and method.
RECENT ATTENTION TO RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
There is a conspicuous surge of interest in RSD. There are many forthcoming volumes and chapters on the topic. Sage Publications will soon release anEncyclopedia of Religious and Spiritual Development (Dowling & Scarlett, in press) and Handbook of Religious and Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence (Roehlkepartain, King, Wagener, & Benson, 2005). For the first time in its storied history as the "bible" of child development, the next edition of theHandbook of Child Psychologywill include a chapter on spiritual development. A second growth area is conference meetings, including the International Conference on Children's Spirituality, the inaugural meeting in 2003 of the Children's Spirituality Conference-Christian Perspectives, and a preconference on RSD at the biennial meetings of the Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD; contact the author for information on this SRCD preconference). In addition, many journals are addressing RSD, including theInternational Journal of Children's Spirituality and special issues on RSD in Review of Religious Research (Boyatzis, 2003b) and Applied Developmental Science (King& Boyatzis, 2004). Another sign of growth is dissertation activity. A PsycINFO search (May, 2004) of truncated subject terms "child* and religio*" found 242 dissertations from 1872 to 2003. Between 1872 and 1959 there were no dissertations on the topic, but there were 11 in the 1960s, 42 in the 1970s, and 58 in the 1980s. This growth exploded in the 1990s, with 102 dissertations. Combining the dissertations from the 1990s and 2000-2003 on children and religion, there were 109, or 45% of all dissertations ever done on the subject. Thus, at one end of the scholarly pipeline, coverage of RSD in new handbooks by prominent publishers shows that the topic has "made it," and at the other end of the pipeline the surge in dissertation activity promises a large cohort of rising scholars working on RSD. The field of RSD is making inroads into the mainstream of psychology like never before.
DEFINING OUR CONSTRUCTS
Empirical data on definitions of "spiritual" and "religious" are offered elsewhere (Zinnbauer & Pargament, Chapter 2, this volume). Given the terms' overlap, they will be used somewhat interchangeably here.Religious developmentcould be defined as the child's growth within an organized community that has shared narratives, practices, teachings, rituals, and symbols in order to bring people closer to the sacred and to enhance one's relationship to community.Spiritualityhas been defined as the search for and relationship with whatever one takes to be a holy or sacred transcendent entity (Pargament, 1999). The concepts of relationship and self-transcendence permeate definitions of spirituality. In rich qualitative work with children, Nye (Hay & Nye, 1998) and others (Reimer & Furrow, 2001) have identified the core of spirituality as "relational consciousness"-a marked perceptiveness in the child of relation to other people, God, or the self. Others have definedspiritual developmentas "the process of growing the intrinsic human capacity for self-transcendence, in which the self is embedded in something greater than the self, including the sacred" (Benson et al., 2003, p. 205), or as an orientation to self and one's surroundings that involves transcending oneself and developing a commitment to contribute to others (Lerner, Dowling, & Anderson, 2003).
CHILDREN'S RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
Developmentalists have focused on "religious cognition," or children's thinking about religious concepts. David Elkind was crucial for introducing to U.S. psychologists Piagetian cognitive-developmental models of religious cognition through his studies on children of different faith traditions (e.g., Elkind, 1961, 1963). Elkind's empirical paper on children's prayer concepts (Long, Elkind, & Spilka, 1967) and his broader theoretical explication (Elkind, 1970) are exemplary accounts of that era's cognitive-developmental approach.
Several themes emerged from Elkind's research: Children's religious thinking showed stage-like change from more concrete and egocentric to more abstract and sociocentric thought. The presumption of these trends flavored research on religious cognition for decades, and stage-based cognitive-developmentalism also shaped religious education (e.g., Goldman, 1964). The structural qualities of children's thinking about religious concepts paralleled their thinking about other, nonreligious concepts. Religious cognition was nothing special, merely a specific case of a generic conceptual and representational process. In addition, general constraints in the child's thinking make the child likely to think in particular ways about religious concepts.
A second wave of cognitive-developmentalism ushered in a major revision: the rejection of global stages that characterized, at any one age, all of a child's thinking. In the 1980s, developmentalists endorsed models of domain-specificity in cognitive development, with a view of the child as a builder of nave theories in specific domains (e.g., Carey, 1985). In the 1990s, theory of mind ascended and the notion of specific domains in religious cognition was largely replaced with the view that religious-cognitive growth is best understood as part of the general growth of understanding of the mind, agency, mental-physical causality, and related concepts. Boyer (1994; Boyer & Walker, 2000) echoed the conclusion offered earlier (Elkind, 1970): children's religious cognitions operate under the same principles and tendencies of children's everyday cognition that has nothing to do with religious ideas.
Despite some fundamental similarities across these waves of cognitive-developmental changes, there were important changes in the array of hypothetical constructs and specific processes at work. In the current zeitgeist, the argot of cognitive-developmentalists has changed to include constructs such as "religious ontologies," or mental representations about the existence and powers of supernatural entities. As Boyer and Walker (2000, p. 152) put it, "the particular way in which religious ontology develops depends on the wider development of ontological categories." These ontologies are marked by several key features. One is the "counterintuitive" nature of religious ontologies (i.e., they violate ordinary expectations, as in the case of spiritual entities who are immortal or omniscient). A second is that counterintuitive religious beliefs operate within the implicit backdrop of theory of mind, which provides children with a prepared set of qualities to extend to the religious agents they think about (e.g., "My supernatural God has wishes and thoughts and worries [just like all beings with minds do]"). Another feature is that the combination of the counterintuitiveness of such agents with the belief that such agents arerealmakes religious beliefs all the moresalientto those who hold them. This salience enhances their likelihood of being transmitted and shared with others.
Another recent revision is the claim that children and adults may not be altogether different in their thinking. That is, magical thinking and rational thinking, "ordinary reality" and "extraordinary reality," and other thought processes that presumably compete may instead coexist in the minds of children and adults (Subbotsky, 1993; Woolley, 1997). This assertion has engendered a new understanding of children. As Woolley (2000) put it, "children's minds are not inherently one way or another-not inherently magical nor inherently rational" (pp. 126-127). Childrenandadults can chalk up mysterious events to "magic," fear what goes bump in the night, and wrestle with the boundaries between real and imagined. These claims challenge the model of cognitive growth as an invariant, stage-like march away from irrational fantasy (allegedly the stuff of children's, and only children's, thinking) toward thetelosand adult gold standard of rational logic (allegedly the stuff of adults', and only adults', thinking).
Even if Piaget has fallen from his pedestal, children's religious cognition continues tobe the preoccupation of most mainstream child development researchers. Critiques of this fixation on thinking are offered later. Due to space limitations, only a subset of religion concepts are discussed, one that has received ample attention and one that has received little.
Children's Concepts of God
The most established interest in religious development research has been children's concepts of God. This focus is not surprising, for several reasons, including the fact that most research has been done by Westerners in Western settings where monotheism predominates. Children who think about God often do so in anthropomorphic terms. Coles (1990) noted that of his large collection of children's drawings of God, 87% depicted God's face.
This anthropomorphizing has been explained by some cognitive-developmentalists as an extension of an intuitive folk psychology to supernatural figures and by attachment, psychoanalytic, or object relations theories (e.g., Rizzuto, 1979; Vergote & Tamayo, 1981) that assert that the child's internal working model of the parents is used as a prototype for a God image.
Empirical work by Barrett calls into question this view of the child's God as a personified God. Barrett and colleagues (Barrett & Keil, 1996; Barrett & Richert, 2003) have conducted a series of studies with young children to test whether children equate God's capabilities with humans' (i.e., think about God anthropomorphically). Preschoolers think rather differently about God's (versus other agents') creative powers, knowledge and perspective, and mortality. Although these observations are not new (see, e.g., Tamminen, Vianello, Jaspard, & Ratcliff, 1988), Barrett has offered an alternative account to the anthropomorphism hypothesis. His "preparedness" hypothesis posits that children are prepared conceptually at very early ages to think about God'sunique, not human, qualities. When preschoolers begin to understand basic properties of the mind (e.g., perspective taking), they attribute those skills differently (nonanthropomorphically) to God than to humans. Barrett and Richert (2003) speculate that even though cultural contributions are necessary to help create God concepts, children may need "little direct training or tuition to acquire fairly rich theological concepts" (p. 310).
God concepts have been examined in children of different religions. For example, Pitts (1976) sampled 6- to 10-year-old children from Jewish, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Mormon, Roman Catholic, and Unitarian families. Pitts used multiple measures: children's drawings of God, interviews with children, and questionnaires for parents. Drawings were analyzed for different themes, including the degree to which children anthropomorphized God. This "A-score," as Pitts called it, varied widely across groups.
God was anthropomorphized most by Mormon, Mennonite, and Lutheran children (all very similar in their scores), followed closely by Roman Catholic and Methodist children (who were identical in score). Jewish children drew the least personified pictures of God, and Unitarian children had A-scores between Jewish children and the other groups. The highest ratio of religious-to-nonreligious symbolism appeared in Roman Catholic children's art, the lowest in Unitarian children's; Jewish children's drawings were abstract and nonrepresentational. Thus, children's religious backgrounds clearly influence their God concepts.
In another study, Heller (1986) found that Hindu children, more than Jewish, Baptist, or Roman Catholic children, described a multifaceted God that feels close and like a person in some ways yet is also an abstract and intangible form of energy. These Hindu beliefs reflect their doctrine about different Gods with different natures and functions.
Taken together, these studies suggest that children do extend a folk psychology and theory of mind to their God images but also conceptualize God as considerably more than human. The studies also demonstrate the value of sampling children from diverse religious backgrounds.
Thinking about God Is Not Just Cognitive
The mystery of the divine seems to capture much of children's (and adults') attention. But thinking about God is not just a cognitive act; it is deeply emotional, personal, and social.
Though some have argued (Harris, 2000a, p. 176) that, to children themselves, there is "nothing special" about their God questions and that they are questions like any other, the assertion here is that the child's contemplations about God can have serious personal implications-especially for children who believe in God, come from faithful families, or are immersed in a culture where "God talk" is commonplace. This personal impact of thinking about God is underscored by the fact that the spiritual entity in question is one that, in monotheistic cultures, is upheld astheultimate and divine being. Thus, thinking about God connects the child to a divine transcendent as well as to a broader social community of belief. Indeed, thinking about God does not occur in a social vacuum. Parents' reports of discussions about religion show that a large proportion of children's questions and comments are about God (Boyatzis & Janicki, 2003; Lawrence, 1965). The child's interpersonal contexts-family, church, peers-help children articulate their views on the metaphysical, and these contexts are, for much of the world's children, embedded in cultures that publicly discuss or worship the divine (see, e.g., Rizzuto, 1979). Thus, thinking about God is very much a social act, as these two conversations show. The first remarks come from an 11-year-old girl thinking about the skin color of Jesus (in Coles, 1990, pp. 57-58):
"My daddy says there weren't any cameras then, so there's no picture of Him. . . . I know that in the black churches they'll tell you Jesus is black; he's colored. Our maid told us that's how He looks in her church-the pictures of Him-so there's the difference. I asked my grandma who's right, and she said . . . 'Honey, I don't think it makes any difference up there-skin color.' "
Here is a conversation between a father and his daughter when she was 81 2 (in Boyatzis, 2004):
C: "I just thought about how people think God is perfect, but do they mean Heknows everything is perfect."
F: "Doyouthink He knows everything?"
C: "I don't know. I think we might find that out when we go to heaven. But, um, I sort of think there are some things that He might not-orShe-might not know."
F: "So you think we find out when we go to heaven."
C: "Yes, I think that's where you can talk to God and ask God lots of questions."
F: "Is there any other way to talk to Godnow, here on earth?"
C: "If you pray. But when I pray, I'm . . . ah, I just, I'm very impatient. When I can't hear GodIgo,Igo(in mock whiny tone), 'Mommy, It'snot talking to me! It'snot talking to me!' See, cuz I just can't hear God very well."
F: "When you pray, what do you expect to hear? Do you think you'll hear God?"
C: "Oh, I expect to hear . . . I expect to hear . . . I expect to hear somebody going (in deep voice) 'OK, thank you for that prayer.' If I ask any questions, I expect to hear the answers later on, next time I pray. But unfortunately I can't really hear the voice. I don't know if God's talking to me and Ijust can't hear it, or if God'snottalking to me."
F: "I think it's hard to know what God thinks."
C: (emphatically) "You justdon't know."
These excerpts also convey the richness of children's thinking and feeling that can be captured by qualitative and ethnographic methods, which are discussed later.
Children's Concepts of the Soul
In contrast to children's God concepts, their thoughts about the soul have received little empirical attention. The only empirical investigations I know of that have explicitly studied children's concepts of the soul include a study of Russian children (published in Rus-sian; Savina, 1997), a study of Chinese children (published in Hungarian; Hui & Chou, 1991), and a study of U.S. children from mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Mennonite traditions (Boyatzis, 1997).
Some work (see Evans, 2000) suggests that children use creationist explanations for human but not nonhuman animals, thus giving humans "privileged" status. If humans had such privileged status in soul concepts, children may make a human (have souls)/ nonhuman (don't have souls) distinction. Or, if children conceive of the soul as an ￩lan vital in living beings, a living/nonliving distinction could emerge (i.e., plants, animals, and humans have souls/artifacts don't). In interviews with preschoolers, Boyatzis (1997) found that 20% of children attributed a soul to furniture, 40% to plants, and 45% to cats and dogs. Children's judgment of the soul-fulness of humans was higher but varied by the age group in question: 48% of children attributed a soul to "babies" (strikingly similar to plants, cats, and dogs!), 64% to "children," and 75% to "parents." Children claiming that babies have souls may relate to the finding that many preschoolers say babies can make wishes or pray (Woolley, 2000). Overall, there was some but not sharp distinction between human/nonhuman and living/nonliving, and a trend toward more "soulfulness" as humans get older. In the Boyatzis study, a different picture emerged in a small group of Mennonite children from rural Pennsylvania. In these conservative Christians who attended a Mennonite school and had limited contact with U.S. culture, a human/ nonhuman distinction emerged: none of the children said furniture, plants, or animals had a soul, whereas 88% said babies and children had souls and 100% of parents did. Together, these data support the notion that children's soul concepts are influenced by their family and religious backgrounds.
Religious and Spiritual Cognition: Parent-Child Correspondence or Independence?
The family functions as "the interpreters of religious ideology" for children (Heller, 1986, p. 32) and parents' practices and beliefs provide "cognitive anchors" (Ozorak, 1989). But is there correspondence or independence between the child's and the parents' beliefs in religious, spiritual, and metaphysical matters? The traditional social-learning approach, with its implicit "tabula rasa" child, would suggest a correspondence model: children's beliefs would be strongly similar to their parents' beliefs. However, a cognitive approach, with its depiction of the child as actively constructing and assimilating his or her reality, may thus predict only a loose association, or independence, between parent and child beliefs. These opposing hypotheses are important to test, primarily because of their relevance to the two dominant approaches in the field of RSD.
Many researchers have examined children's and parents' beliefs about mythical figures (e.g., Santa Claus). This research is relevant to children's religious beliefs and cognitions as both topics have widespread endorsement in our culture and entail a mingling of human and supernatural qualities. In some studies, parents' endorsement of mythical characters such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy was positively related to their children's belief in them (Prentice, Manosevitz, & Hubbs, 1978; Rosengren, Kalish, Hickling, & Gelman, 1994). However, the correspondence between parents and children was not so strong as to suggest children think what their parents want them to think. In Prentice et al. (1978), of the parents who encouraged their children to believe in the Easter Bunny, 23% of their children didnotbelieve, and of the parents who discouraged their children's belief, 47% of the childrendidbelieve in the Easter Bunny. In interviews with fundamentalist Christian families, Clark (1995) found that many children believed that Santa was real even though their parents discouraged such belief. A study of 3- to 10-year-old Jewish children revealed the children's belief in these mythical figures was unrelated to parents' encouragement of these beliefs (Prentice & Gordon, 1986).
Intriguing work by Taylor and Carlson (2000) investigated parents' attitudes about children's fantasy play through ethnographies and interviews with subjects from Mennonite and fundamentalist Christian religions. They also reviewed research on Hindu families. Parents' religious ideologies influenced their reactions to and beliefs about children's fantasy behavior and engagement with imaginary companions. The Hindu parents often reacted positively, because their children's talking with invisible companions may be a way the children interact with a spirit from a past life. This parental interpretation reflects their religious tradition of belief in reincarnated and metaphysical entities. In contrast, Mennonite parents had strongly negative reactions to their children's imaginary companions.
A similar pattern emerges in studies on parent-child religious beliefs. Evans (2000, 2001) examined children in secular families and in fundamentalist Christian families who also attended religious schools or were home-schooled to learn whether children from these different backgrounds endorse creationist or evolutionist accounts. To some degree, family type did matter-fundamentalist Christian children overwhelmingly embraced creationist views with virtually no endorsement of evolutionist ones. However, even young children (7 to 9 years of age) fromsecularhomes embraced creationist views. Not until early adolescence did youth in secular homes began to consistently share their families' evolutionist cosmologies. Evans notes that even a "saturated" belief environment, as Evans called it, with consistent beliefs between parents and between the parents and local community norms, would still be filtered through the child's intuitive belief system. These data suggest that parent-child correspondence or independence will reflect children's cognitive level and construction of knowledge around them.
In another study, Carl Johnson (2000) interviewed Roman Catholic (RC) and Unitarian Universalist (UU) 13- and 14-year-old girls. These traditions embrace different views of the supernatural. Catholicism asserts that there are many supernatural forces (God, the Holy Ghost, saints, etc.) whereas the UU tradition does not doctrinally assert a supernatural God. In their comments, RC girls believed in God, miracles, supernatural beings, and related matters. In contrast, UU girls dismissed the notion of a supernatural being and argued that, for example, the recovery of a terminally ill child was not due to a miracle but to an unknown process or the power of human willpower. Johnson noted that UU teenagers were not solely materialists and indeed speculated about spiritual forces. The key distinction was that the UU girls endorsed the power of the human will and spirit whereas RC girls embraced a divine God who permeates all of reality.
A study on religious coping demonstrates both correspondence and independence at work. Pendleton, Cavalli, Pargament, and Nasr (2002) studied children sick with cystic fibrosis on multiple measures (e.g., interviews, artwork, and parent report) and found that some children used religious coping even though their families were not religious. For example, a 10-year-old boy drew a picture of God embracing him to make him feel better.
When the boy's mother saw the drawing, she was taken aback by her son's religious imagery, saying, "My kids have never even been to church in their lives!" (Pendleton et al.,2002, p. 5).
Other research makes clear that children'sperceptionsof parents' religious views and behavior are more related to the children's religious development than are the parents'actualviews and behaviors (Bao, Whitbeck, Hoyt, & Conger, 1999; Okagaki & Bevis, 1999). What parents do and believe is less important than whatchildren thinkparents do and believe.
The studies reviewed generate several important conclusions. One is that we must study children growing up in different religions to capture the complexity and variety in children's religious cognition and ontologies. Another is that researchers must determine how children's ideas are affected by different inputs: parents, school, community, church, religious education, and so on. Together, the findings reveal ample correspondenceand independence between parent and child beliefs. There is evidence for both. Now, one's choice to prioritize either correspondence or independence will reflect one's core presumptions about children, families, and RSD. To advance our thinking, the position here is that the independence model of parent-child belief is theoretically more illuminating and stimulating, and for this reason: it confirms children's active role in their own RSD and thus raises serious doubts about the depiction in socialization theories of the child as a passive recipient in top-down transmission of parental belief.
Better Ways to Understand Family Mechanisms of Socialization
Many parents and children talk about religious issues, confronting the unknowability and ineffability of the spiritual and metaphysical. Sometimes children have experiences or insights that parents find anomalous or "inappropriate" to either reason or faith. Researchers might study how parents react to such experiences (see Boyatzis, 2004; Harris, 2000a, 2000b; Woolley, 1997). Parentalopennessto the varieties of children's religious and mystical experience may foster the child's relational consciousness to what is beyond oneself. Indeed, parents' acceptance of children's belief in imaginary figures (Santa, etc.) may help the child develop faith in the transcendent sacred figures that are central to religious traditions (Clark, 1995).
Family processes are described elsewhere (Mahoney & Tarakeshwar, Chapter 10, this volume). While we know that in some ways children's RSD is related to their parents' religiosity, we know little about specific mechanisms at work. Parents may influence their children's RSD as they do in other realms, through verbal induction and indoctrination of beliefs, disciplinary tactics, different reinforcements, and behavioral modeling. Some scholars have extended these constructs to spiritual modeling and spiritual observational learning (Silberman, 2003; Strommen & Hardel, 2000). Adults' retrospective reports confirm that "embedded routines"-regular family rituals-were common in families of those who grew up to be religious (Wuthnow, 1999).
A common family activity is parent-child conversation about religion. Boyatzis and Janicki (2003) asked a small sample of Christian families with children ages 3 to 12 to complete a survey on parent-child communication and to keep a diary of all conversations about religious and spiritual issues. Data were collected in two time periods, about 2 months apart, to assess the frequency, structure, and content of parent-child conversations about religious topics. The results indicated that parent-child communication about religion is areciprocal, bilateral dynamicwith mutual influence. This characterization of family interaction contrasts sharply with the unilateral "transmission" model that has dominated socialization models for decades. Data from surveys and diaries demonstrate that in conversations about religion children are active, initiate and terminate about half of them, speak as much as parents do, and ask questions and offer their own views. Par-ents ask many more open-ended questions than test questions (e.g., "What do you think heaven is like?" vs. "Who built the Ark?") and did not impose their own beliefs too strongly. On a "conviction rating" 5-point scale, parents indicated in each diary the degree to which their comments reflected their actual beliefs about the topic. The average rating was only a 3.7, suggesting that parents were not strongly stating their own views. This modest conviction could mean that parents attempted to accommodate their children's views and/or those parents "watered down" their statements to help their children better understand their views. These communication styles should be analyzed in families of different religions.
Although Boyatzis and Janicki (2003) did not measure the impact of communication style on children's beliefs (and this is a crucial step in future research), a 2-year longitudinal study on adolescents' moral reasoning seems relevant. Children's moral reasoning developed most when parents asked questions about the child's opinions, discussed the child's moral reasoning, and paraphrased the child's own words (Walker & Taylor, 1991). We may expect a similar relationship between communication style and children's RSD. Another longitudinal topic is the long-term consequence of growing up with a particular kind of religious communication style in childhood. Might early family communication styles predict different forms of later religiosity?
The diary and survey data (Boyatzis & Janicki, 2003) support the notion that most families' natural conversations about religion consist of a mutual give-and-take with reciprocal influence. This is consistent with two different but compatible models of development. One model emphasizes the role of knowledgeable adults who use scaffolding and guided participation to help the child move in a zone of proximal development to higher understandings (Rogoff, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978). A second, transactional model of development posits that children and parents influence each other in recurrent reciprocal exchanges (Kuczynski, 2003).
The bidirectional and transactional models differ from the unilateral transmission model in several key ways (Kuczynski, 2003). First, unilateral transmission models assume a static asymmetry of power between parent and child; in transactional models, there is an interdependent asymmetry. In addition, instead of positing a direct cause- effect link, transactional models presume circular causality: causes and effects are recursive and indeterminate (in Yeats's apropos phrase, it is impossible to separate the dancer from the dance). Causality is not within the parent or the child per se, but within the exchange between them. Beyond individual parent-child exchanges, children's beliefs and impressions undergo many "secondary adjustments" through "third-party discussions" that are common in the "underworld of everyday family life" (Kuczynski, 2003, p. 10). Unfortunately, the study of this complicated and messy "underworld" has been ignored in research that has emphasized the priority of parents as socializing agents.
To illustrate these issues, imagine a conversation between a child, parents, and a sibling. A young girl initiates it with a question: "Dad, will God be mad that I didn't say my prayers last night?" The father says that God cares a lot about hearing from children and that she has to try to remember to pray. With a frown, the daughter brings the father's take on the issue to the mother and says, "Mom, Dad said God's really mad at me," at which point the mother notes her daughter's worry and says, "Well, I'm sure God won't betoomad. What doyouthink?" The child says she is pretty sure that God will forgive her but wants her to pray tonight, and the girl then presses the mother for comment, whereupon the mother says, "I'm sure you're right, honey-God forgives all of us." The girl brings her position and the mother's view back to the father and the discussion dwin-dles but continues with multiple directions of information flow. That evening in the children's room, the girl deliberates with her sibling about what the mother and father said. The siblings together then add their own interpretations of the matter, including the observation that Dad usually gets more angry than Mom when the kids forget to do things. The girl who initiated the discussion now has a houseful of ideas about God's reaction to her not saying her prayers. Within all of these subsequent exchanges the girl is affecting others, and she can retain, revise, or reject her earlier position to arrive at her "final" understanding of the matter. The girl may continue to reflect privately about the issue and modify her views through her own thinking. Later that week the family may have another conversation about saying prayers, and the girl's latest iteration will again be examined and modified. And on and on.
In light of this scenario, which is probably rather common, it is surprising that scientists ever concocted the idea of a simple unidirectional transmission of religion. The plea here is that socialization researchers embrace a bidirectional, reciprocal, and transactional model as an antidote to earlier transmission models. A bidirectional model will more accurately reveal what actually occurs in families and illuminate how children influence their parents' religious growth. Sadly, psychologists know virtually nothing about child?parent influence that is an inherent aspect of transactional models. It is possible (see Boyatzis, 2004) that some families may have distinct parent-as-mentor, child-asapprentice roles; in other families, the two may be teacher and student to the other indistinguishably. Finally, in some families children may be viewed as "spiritual savants" who inspire parents' spiritual growth. Some cultures (e.g., the Beng of West Africa or the Warlpiri of north-central Australia), attribute to children "spiritual emissary" status as having recently passed through a liminal veil from a realm of ancestral spirits to the living (see DeLoache & Gottlieb, 2000). These examples are raised to underscore the need to move beyond the ubiquitous model of parents' unilateral transmission to passive children.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS IN THE STUDY
OF RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
In their recent review, Emmons and Paloutzian (2003, p. 395) argued that any "single disciplinary approach is incapable of yielding comprehensive knowledge of phenomena as complex and multifaceted as spirituality." The remedy, they suggest, is a "multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm" that calls for data at multiple levels of analysis within multiple subdisciplines of psychology, and even beyond psychology. In addition to the call for a more sophisticated analysis of family processes, I suggest new directions for the field.
Future Direction 1: Refinements in Research Design and Methodology
Researchers have long called for more rigorous and longitudinal designs to explore the trajectories of RSD over time (see Boyatzis & Newman, 2004; Hood & Belzen, Chapter 4, this volume, on methodology). At the least, researchers could employ between-group comparisons and pretest-posttest studies. For example, Thananart, Tori, and Emavardhana (2000) used a pretest-posttest design with adolescents in Thailand who completed a 6-week Buddhist monastic training program. These youth were compared to a matched control group of adolescents on a variety of religiosity and outcome measures. Data were also collected from parents of the youth in both groups. Stonehouse (2001) conducted a between-group posttest study at a Christian church with children enrolled in a popular religious education curriculum called Godly Play (Berryman, 1991). These children were compared to control children from the same church not in Godly Play classes; both groups were similar on religious and family measures and all children came from highly religious families. Children drew pictures of religious figures and biblical events and discussed their art with an interviewer, discussed Bible stories, and completed a semistructured interview about their religious experiences and sense of God. A content analysis of the children's art and comments revealed that Godly Play children scored higher than control children on most variables, including meaningful insights, curiosity about religion (e.g., utterances such as "I wonder about . . . "), and expression of pleasure while discussing God. As in these two studies, future research should strive for multiple measures of different groups of subjects on different variables at different points in time.
Need for Multiple Measures
Multiple measures reveal different insights into the same topic. For example, Barrett and Keil (1996) found that subjects' God concepts were somewhat different if the measure was a Likert scale of God attributes or a response to a vignette about God. Boyatzis and Janicki (2003) found that a quantitative survey and a qualitative diary measure yielded slightly different pictures of parent-child communication about religion. Across two data collection periods, the survey showed strong stability but the diary lower stability. Surveys might tap parents'globalschemas about family communication whereas the diaries captureactualconversations (that may reveal more variability over time). The important point is not that the different measures fail to converge on a single conclusion but that different measures yield different impressions of the same phenomenon. The use of multiple measures of any single variable will thus provide a more comprehensive picture of the behavior.
Interview measures are common with children. Researchers might assess children's expressive vocabulary to test its correlation with the sophistication of children's descriptions of spiritual phenomena. Researchers could also consider demand characteristics of rapport (on this matter, see Coles, 1990; Heller, 1986, Chap. 2). When discussing God with an unfamiliar adult, children may reveal less detail and depth than with a parent, a teacher from church, or researchers who spend extensive time with them and treat them as conversation partners rather than interview subjects (see Coles, 1990; Hay & Nye, 1998).
Children's drawings of God and heaven are commonly used windows into children's feelings and thoughts, but researchers often see through the glass dimly. First, asking a child to draw God increases the odds for an anthropomorphized deity (Barrett, 1998; Hyde, 1990). Second, the analysis of drawings must proceed carefully. As Hood (2003) argued, if a child draws God with large hands, the drawing mayreflect an anthropomorphized God-but the large hands may instead serve to express the child's belief that God has a unique power to create. One child drew diamonds on the roads of heaven; this may not be the child's actual image of heaven but could be her symbolic way to express that it is a beautiful place. Third, researchers ought not to presume that drawings capture a child's image of God in a way that is either veridical or static. Art is a process as well as a product, and the act of drawing may give rise to new insights in children (see GuntherHeimbrock, 1999). Finally, task characteristics may affect drawings; when asked to draw God first and a person second, children's drawings of God seemed more abstract and the person pictures included more religious imagery (Pitts, 1976).
Future Direction 2: Virtue Development
The study of virtue is "making a comeback in psychology" (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003, p. 386). The ascendance of positive psychology has given character traits such as forgiveness and gratitude new empirical attention. There is a rich history of developmental research on prosocial behavior; altruism, empathy, and even donating behavior (see Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). Although virtues and their manifestations are explicitly encouraged in major religions, psychologists have operationalized these qualities through a secular, not a religious, lens.
Wise people have long debated the origins of virtue (e.g., see Plato's dialogueThe Meno). What is the developmental trajectory of gratitude, forgiveness, and humility? When do such qualities first appear? What would constitute valid, age-appropriate measures of virtues? Parents and communities probably use different socialization and induction mechanisms to cultivate these behaviors in children, and we need to learn how religion has a hand in these processes. For example, Jewish and Christian traditions espouse different doctrines about forgiveness. Do these doctrinal differences show up in children's understanding and acts of forgiveness? If so, at what age, and to what personal and social benefits?
Within the family, are children more prosocial-or in religious terms, more kind, merciful, and charitable-if their parents frame and motivate behavior within religious language and imperatives? That is, it would be worthwhile to learn how children's levels of kindness, empathy, and charity are related to their parents' secular endorsements of such actions (say, "Be nice") versus religious motivations (say, "Love your neighbor as yourself" or "God tells us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked"). What parenting styles are associated with children's virtues? Do families possess a measurable "climate" of forgiveness or gratitude or humility that affects the child's capacity to enact such traits? In Heller's (1986) study, Roman Catholic children discussed forgiveness more than did Jewish, Baptist, and Hindu children; Heller suggested that forgiveness is central in Catholic doctrine and the Catholic family milieu. Recent data indicate links between parents' and children's forgiveness. Elementary-school children's understanding of forgiveness in an interview measure was positively predicted by mothers' forgiveness but negatively by fathers' forgiveness (Denham, Neal, & Bassett, 2004; Getman, Bassett, & Denham, 2004). Another study from the Denham team (Wyatt, Bassett, & Denham, 2004) found that children's scores on an interview measure they designed, the Child Forgiveness Inventory, were related positively to existential orientation scores in their mothers but negatively to such scores in their fathers. Future research on various aspects of parents' religiosity-worship attendance, praying, theological conservatism vs. liberalism, and so on-will reveal which predict virtues in children. Clearly, the family is a rich locus of study for the complex cultivation of virtues.
Children's virtues may be linked to peer relations. A recent study (Pickering & Wilson, 2004) found that the more first-graders are viewed as forgiving, the more popular and less aggressive their peers rated them and the more their teachers described them as having fewer social problems and as sharing with and helping others more. These two research groups-Denham and colleagues at George Mason University, and Wilson and Pickering at Seattle Pacific University-are conducting crucial work on the development and consequences of forgiveness in children, and other scholars should emulate their use of multiple measures and multiple groups of informants in the study of other virtues in childhood.
Future Direction 3: Religious Experience and Religion/Spirituality in Children's Lives
The field of RSD is quiet, too quiet, on children's religious and spiritualexperience. Others have noted this: "That there is a paucity of rigorous developmentally focused studies of religious experience and mysticism is almost an understatement" (Spilka & McIntosh, 1997, p. 233). Emmons and Paloutzian (2003) charged that "experience is the most ignored dimension of spirituality" (p. 386). I submit this is not just a case of "yet another neglected topic" but is in fact a serious problem and here's why: the core of spirituality is a sense of self-transcendence and the core of religion is seeking or being in relationship with the sacred. Thus, the crux of spirituality and religion is experience, as we were taught long ago (James, 1902/1982).
Do children experience and feel God? Carl Johnson (2000) suggested that in their frequent "why" questions, "Young children are already oriented to the existence of 'something more' beyond the given world" (p. 208). Almost half a sample of Finnish children claimed to feel God's nearness "very often" (Tamminen, 1991). In Hardy's database of adults' retrospective accounts of such experiences, 15% occurred in childhood (Robinson, 1983). Retrospective studies have converged on several themes (Farmer, 1992; Robinson, 1983): One, children's experiences were often charged with joy, wonder, awe, and a sense of connectedness to something greater than the self. Two, many adults could recall their childhood experiences decades later and were still affected by them (e.g., an enhanced compassion or sensitivity).
Qualitative and ethnographic work provide ample instances of children's religious experiences, from hearing God's voice (Coles, 1990) to reacting to their First Communion (Bales, 2000) to seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary (Anderson, 1998). Hay and Nye (1998) share a 6-year-old's description of his experience: " . . . in the night and I saw this bishopy kind of alien. I said, 'Who are you?' And he said, 'I am the Holy Spirit.' I did think he was the Holy Spirit" (p. 102). How do scholars of RSD understand children's visions of the Virgin Mary or this boy's report of a "bishopy kind of alien"?
On an emotional and experiential level, children may grasp the inherent relationality at the core of spirituality, even if this sense or awareness surpasses their ability to verbalize such a consciousness. It is a challenge to find theoretical and methodological means to understand the phenomenological reality and significanceto the childof the religious or spiritual experience. Some experiences (for children and adults) may be amenable to linguistic expression; some will surpass linguistic capabilities. In either case, verbal measures create the risk of studying not children's experience but the language they use to describe it (see Boyatzis, 2001).
For insight into the interplay between language and experience, a most valuable work is Robert Coles's (1990) The Spiritual Life of Children. Coles depicts children's spiritual struggle and search for transcendent meaning by sharing many rich excerpts from interviews with school-age children from different religious backgrounds and cultures. The children's remarks are always informative and often profound. Coles's method is rather straightforward: he talks with children-at length, on many occasions, in various locations comfortable to the children. He also asks children to draw pictures and tell him about them. This time-consuming, personal approach may not work for all researchers, but his qualitative and ethnographic method demonstrates, among other things, a way to cultivate an authenticity and rapport that may be crucial to reveal the deeper functions of religion in children's lives.
Another benefit of a qualitative approach is its illumination of individual differences. Consider the idea that children have their own "spiritual signatures," a personalized expression of their experience of relational consciousness (Hay & Nye, 1998). Also, given the intangibility of transcendent entities, it is not surprising that skepticism is a personal quality that varies between children (Harris, 2000b). And in personality psychology, the trait of "spiritual transcendence" has begun receiving attention (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003). How do these constructs of spiritual signature, skepticism, and spiritual transcendence manifest themselves in children's lives? How would we measure them? Beyond these questions, we should also address religious experience within the context of organized religion.
Some religions are sacramental and all have rituals. Public rituals and sacraments are essential mechanisms within organized religion to provide children the transcendent experiences that are at the core of religion and spirituality: connectedness to the sacred transcendent, and connectedness to people and community around the child. Important sacraments for children in many traditions include baptism, first communion, confirmation, confession, bar or bat mitzvah, and so on. Psychologists might want to learn how children understand and experience them. Organized religions prioritize these events, but dochildren feel transformed by them? Qualitative and ethnographic work is needed. How large is the discrepancy between formal doctrine and catechesis in organized religions and what children actually believe and understand? An interesting ethnographic study (Bales, 2000) on Catholics' first communion revealed that, in contrast to clergy and parental perceptions about this paramount rite, many children receiving their first communion focused not on sacred but more mundane matters-such as the taste and feel of the communion wafer and wine.
We must learn more of how children experience and understand the tenets of many organized religions: grace and redemption, sin and salvation, the distinction between faith and good works, reincarnation, the Trinity, the power of divine figures to heal and punish, and so on. Questions abound: How do Jewish children make sense of the mourning ritual of sitting shiva? What do Roman Catholic children feel and think when they are praying to a saint or statue of the Virgin Mary? How do Hindu youth make sense of their polytheistic tradition (especially if they live in a monotheistic culture)? How are Muslim children transformed by the hajj to Mecca? These are important theological matters. Psychologists who take the bold step into studying them would begin to inquire about what world religions actually care deeply about.
Future Direction 4: Cognition Is Not Everything
The paradigm of cognitive developmentalism has dominated the study of children's RSD (e.g., Hyde, 1990; Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger, & Gorsuch, 2003), with a focus on cognitive processes within different stages. Young children have traditionally been defined by their cognitive limitations, a presumption that has engendered problems for scholars trying to understand young children's spiritual experience or insight. The "obsession with stages" has serious consequences, among them impeding our understanding of the gradualness and the "complexity and uniqueness of individual religious development" (Spilka et al., 2003, p. 85).
Recently, psychologists of religion have called for the field to "escape from the confines of the Piagetian approach . . . which has become stale" (Spilka et al., 2003, pp. 104-105). It is necessary to emphasize to nondevelopmentalists that cognitive-developmentalists have indeed moved beyond Piaget. As one scholar put it, "this battle has since been won" (Johnson, 1997, p. 1024). Nevertheless, despite such advances, for many developmentalists it remains difficult to conceptualize RSD in anything other than a cognitive framework. Developmentalists are here urged to consider what RSD would look like through non-cognitive-developmental lenses.
Religious and Spiritual Development in Context
Fortunately, cognitive-developmentalists have called recently for more attention to culture and religion (e.g., Boyer & Walker, 2000; Taylor & Carlson, 2000; Woolley, 2000). Certainly religions themselves emphasize that religious and spiritual growth comes throughbeing in communitywith others. Such growth is "not intelligible apart from the communal context and faith tradition in which people are formed" (Johnson, 1989, p. 19). However, developmental theories were surely not conceived with religions in mind (Estep, 2002). But RSD is, on one level, social and collective. As Scarlett and Perriello (1991) asserted in their analysis of prayer concepts, "mature prayer develops out of years of social interaction allowing individuals to understand what it means to be a self in intimate dialogue with another" (p. 67).
A sociocultural Vygtoskyan (1978) approach would foster a contextualized view of RSD (Estep, 2002), emphasizing its interpersonal processes of scaffolding and guided participation by adults that help children progress to higher levels (Rogoff, 1990). Through such lenses, we would consider how religious knowledge and behavior isinterpersonal beforeintrapersonal for the child. In stark contrast to a Piagetian cognitivedevelopmentalism and its offspring, this theory would require us to recognize the sociocultural embeddedness of religious and spiritual growth and to study interpersonal and cultural mediators that develop a relational consciousness. A social ecology model (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) would conceptualize RSD as occurring within and between multiple contexts. This model would assess different microsystems that have immediate and proximal impact (e.g., family, church, peer group, school) and the interactions (or mesosystems) between them. A recent study on adolescents illustrates the value of studying RSD in such a model. U.S. youth who live in high-poverty areas are more likely to stay on track academically if they are also high in church attendance, whereas those youth in the same high-poverty areas who are low in church attendance are likely to fall behind academically (Regnerus & Elder, 2003). Surrounding the many micro- and mesosystems are the macrosystem of cultural ideologies, so a contextualized approach must incorporate macrolevel culture.
Consider the Fulani, a nomadic people in Western Africa (M. Johnson, 2000). Due to their belief that many spirits exist in their midst, Fulani parents must protect their babies from evil spirits who may capture their babies' souls. To make their babies unattractive to these spirits, parents give their babies unappealing names, openly insult them, and even roll their babies in cow dung. When we study other cultures, we recognize-sometimes with a shock-that children are immersed in social communities with pervasive religious beliefs, sometimes subtle and sometimes conspicuous, which permeate children's experience in profound ways.
CONCLUSION: GOING BEYOND OURSELVES
The time has come for researchers to "diversify their efforts" (Spilka et al., 2003, p. 104) and transcend our own boundaries to explore other fields for new and diverse insights, paradigms, and methods. These fields could include theological accounts of development (Cavalletti, 1983; Loder, 1998; Westerhoff, 2000), the views of children within different religious traditions (Bunge, 2001), faith development theories (Fowler, 1981), childhood autobiographies (Angelou, 1969), and philosophers' views of childhood (Matthews, 1980).
Recognizing the inherent limitations of narrow theoretical vantages, Reich (1993) has suggested that a more comprehensive theory would address internal and external influences, children's psychical and meaning-making efforts, social contexts, emotions, and universal versus individual qualities. Much work is required to build such rich and integrative theories, but let us begin. The point is not that any one approach will serve as the ideal paradigm for RSD but that psychologists can widen their apertures on the phenomena we study. Intellectual boldness on our part will entail moving toward a multilevel and multidisciplinary paradigm. The complexity and importance of children's religious and spiritual development warrant such a comprehensive and eclectic epistemological approach.
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