Spirituality is key to kids' happiness

January 8, 2009

To make children happier, we may need to encourage them to develop a strong sense of personal worth, according to Dr. Mark Holder from the University of British Columbia in Canada and his colleagues Dr. Ben Coleman and Judi Wallace. Their research shows that children who feel that their lives have meaning and value and who develop deep, quality relationships - both measures of spirituality - are happier. It would appear, however, that their religious practices have little effect on their happiness. These findings have been published in the online edition of Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies.

Both spirituality (an inner belief system that a person relies on for strength and comfort) and religiousness (institutional religious rituals, practices and beliefs) have been linked to increased happiness in adults and adolescents. In contrast, very little work has been done on younger children. In an effort to identify strategies to increase children's happiness, Holder and colleagues set out to better understand the nature of the relationship between spirituality, religiousness and happiness in children aged 8 to 12 years. A total of 320 children, from four public schools and two faith-based schools, completed six different questionnaires to rate their happiness, their spirituality, their religiousness and their temperament. Parents were also asked to rate their child's happiness and temperament.

The authors found that those children who said they were more spiritual were happier. In particular, the personal (i.e. meaning and value in one's own life) and communal (i.e. quality and depth of inter-personal relationships) aspects of spirituality were strong predictors of children's happiness. Spirituality explained up to 27 percent of the differences in happiness levels amongst children.

A child's temperament was also an important predictor of happiness. In particular, happier children were more sociable and less shy. The relationship between spirituality and happiness remained strong, even when the authors took temperament into account. However, counter intuitively, religious practices - including attending church, praying and meditating - had little effect on a child's happiness.

According to the authors, "enhancing personal meaning may be a key factor in the relation between spirituality and happiness." They suggest that 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.

Reference: Holder MD, Coleman B, & Wallace J (2008). Spirituality, religiousness, and happiness in children aged 8-12 years. Journal of Happiness Studies DOI 10.1007/s10902-008-9126-1

Source: Springer

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11 comments

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Soylent
3 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2009
"Their research shows that children who feel that their lives have meaning and value and who develop deep, quality relationships - both measures of spirituality - are happier."

Neither of those are in any way a measure of spirituality.
x646d63
1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2009
Neither of those are in any way a measure of spirituality.


Some better examples are...
Omnitheo
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 08, 2009
Spirituality and religion can only be harmful to children. They will benefit more from knowing how the world works, and what they can do to fit in, rather than how some god is going to send them to hell.

Spirituality is belief in superstition, and ignorance to the truths of the universe.

You do not need to be blind in order to have deep quality relationships or value in your life.
Mauricio
1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2009
Spirituality and religion can only be harmful to children. They will benefit more from knowing how the world works, and what they can do to fit in, rather than how some god is going to send them to hell.

Spirituality is belief in superstition, and ignorance to the truths of the universe.

You do not need to be blind in order to have deep quality relationships or value in your life.


In my early training in science I received the command that I HAVE TO BELIEVE in randomness to become a scientist. Recently it has been demonstrated that (deterministic) algorithms can produce numbers that pass statistical tests for randomness.

It would be interesting if the atheists would be right and spirituality would be unnecessary, but study over study confirm that is not like that, that spirituality indeed makes people happier. If atheist would be read more of history would learn what happens when atheism rules....
bobwinners
5 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2009
The definition of spirituality sounds much like morality, perhaps as taught by parents to children and thus reflects an involved relationship between parents and siblings. Right and wrong.
Religion, on the other hand, is taught by third parties and involves mostly non-practical concepts of existance that are more confusing and much less guiding to the child.
This probably accounts for the difference.
smiffy
4 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2009
Their definition of spirituality -
an inner belief system that a person relies on for strength and comfort

is a bit suspect.

It would mean that a paranoid schizophrenic is very spiritual!
OregonWind
4 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2009
There are many aspects of spirituality. Einstein was spiritual scientist without having to embrace any conventional religion. I am for that type of approach. Personal religiosity can be part of a very scientific mind. There is no need to go to a church or accept conventional religion or even join any group. I try to teach my kids to respect nature, to appreciate beauty, to meditate, to respect others, to be friendly, etc., that is spiritual I believe.
x646d63
not rated yet Jan 09, 2009
If atheist would be read more of history would learn what happens when atheism rules....


What happens?
ealex
not rated yet Jan 09, 2009
I think some people should pay more attention to what they are reading. I am an atheist myself, and although the article title sounded a bit suspicious at first, after reading it I find myself agreeing with it fully. Kids need a much more spiritual education than what they are being given widely around the world.

Spiritual does not mean religious in any context, nor does it deny rationalism. More so the article itself says that "attending church, praying and meditating - had little effect on a child's happiness".

Also, smiffy, having an inner belief system does not mean you are schizophrenic. You should give the dictionary a chance really. I have to admit though that the expression "inner belief system" is a bit unfortunate since all beliefs are ultimately INNER. However in agreeing with what some other commenters say, I believe the authors want to say that a multi-faceted approach to education is needed, one that incorporates feeling, reasoning and culture, as well as moral structure.
Bob_B
not rated yet Jan 09, 2009
When I was 6 and at Disneyland Micky and Donald were Spiritual Guides. Oh, what fun I had. I've never found another Spiritual moment like that day.
OBSL33t
3 / 5 (2) Jan 11, 2009
"lives have meaning and value and who develop deep, quality relationships"

These are just measures of a mentally healthy person.

Some better examples are...

-Belief in a spirit.
-An inner sense of something greater than oneself.
-Belief in feelings over evidence.
In my early training in science I received the command that I HAVE TO BELIEVE in randomness to become a scientist. Recently it has been demonstrated that (deterministic) algorithms can produce numbers that pass statistical tests for randomness.

I would never trust a science teacher that told me I had to BELIEVE anything.
The entire point of science is to make belief unnecessary.
Yes, randomity is a mathematical illusion.
study over study confirmspirituality indeed makes people happier. If atheist would be read more of history would learn what happens when atheism rules....

What studies? Are they unbiased studies or financed by churches? If I "would be read more of history" (whatever that means) I'm sure I would find one or two inflammatory mentions of Atheism in total. History has been decisively clear as to what happens when spirituality rules I.E. WWII, 9/11, 100 years war, and countless other human atrocities.
Spiritual does not mean religious in any context, nor does it deny rationalism.

I'm not sure what dictionary you're reading. If you type define:spirituality into Google almost all of the definitions pertain to religion. I'd call that quite a bit of context. Furthermore the belief in the invisible DOES denote the denial of rationalism.

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