It’s pretty easy to think that your kids are automatically kind because you’re raising them in a religious home. After all, isn’t that partly what believing in God is all about? Being kind, being empathetic, sharing with others? Well, you might need to think again.
According to a recently published international study from the University of Chicago, children may not be as altruistic as their religious parents think. A team of psychologists concluded that children from religious families, are, well, just not as kind as those not raised in a religious family. Religious children tend to share less and want to punish others more for their anti-social behavior.
Professor and director of the University of Chicago Child NeuroSuite Jean Decety, who led the international team in the study said, “Our findings contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others. In our study, kids from atheist and non-religious families were, in fact, more generous.”
The study included 1,170 children between ages 5 and 12, from six countries—Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey and the United States. Most families identified as either Christians or Muslim. The number of people identifying as another religion didn’t reach a large enough sample size to be included in additional analyses.
Kids were presented with a sharing game where they were given the opportunity to anonymously share their stickers with another child. The children from the non-religious households shared more stickers.
The children were also asked to view short videos demonstrating bad behavior, for example a child shoving another child, then were asked to rank the meanness of the act. They were also asked to rank the level of punishment for the perpetrator. The kids from the religious households ranked the behavior as more mean and sought harsher punishments for the offending acts.