There has been some debate about the impact of religion and spiritual guidance on children’s mental health, but according to a recent study, that impact may be quite positive.
In fact, the study, which has been conducted by the reputed T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, found that the level of positive impact which comes from practicing religion or spirituality increases as people age.
This does not mean that you have to make your children attend Sunday school or pray at a holy place in order to reap the benefits.
The research also found evidence to suggest that praying or meditating in the comfort of your own home and at your own chosen time will allow you to experience similar benefits such as a decreased probability of both succumbing to substance abuse and also the onset of depression.
A Vast Study
The study is not a standalone one but has leveraged on other, long-term studies for data. For example, another study called the Nurses’ Health Study II and the subsequent study to it called the Growing Up Today Study, or GUTS, already had a sample size of 5000 individuals who were being voluntarily monitored for behaviors and practices.
Researchers for the Harvard study were more interested in finding a connection between the frequency of a child’s or a teen’s attendance of religious sessions or the frequency with which he or she prayed or meditated, and the mental health of the same individual in the later parts of his or her life, such as in his or her 20s. The data was only considered for subjects who were between the ages of 8 and 14.
Religious Children Grow Up to Be Happier Adults
The research revealed that there was an 18% higher chance of an adult reporting a happier state of being if he or she had attended religious services during childhood years with a frequency of at least once a week compared to those who never went to religious services.
Another very interesting discovery was that those who had attended religious services were 30% more inclined to become involved in volunteer work and also showed a 33% lesser probability of becoming involved with substances during their 20s.
But, attending religious services was not the only factor. Those children and teens who had the habit of meditating on their own also showed positive characteristics in later years, and the extent of those positive characteristics depended a lot on the frequency with which they prayed or meditated on a daily basis.
Some of the positives which were seen in the study were greater satisfaction with life, a better emotions management, a more forgiving nature, and a lesser probability of engaging in intimate activities in the teen years (and hence a lesser chance of contracting intimately transmitted diseases).
An Important Study
There is no doubt that this study has far-reaching implications especially when it comes to endorsing certain parenting practices. Since this study has shown a positive correlation between religiosity in children and a happier, healthier lifestyle in their adult years, it makes sense to encourage parents to involve their children in practices which encourage prayer or meditation in those early formative years.
There have been studies in the past which have also reached similar conclusions, linking religiosity to increased happiness and also with increased resilience of a person when it comes to dealing with stress.
In some other research studies, it has also been discovered that those centers of our brain are pacified with prayer/meditation which harbors thoughts that cause us to worry. Such practices align us with the external world and help us feel part of our surroundings.
Meditation has already earned a respectable place in psychology as a great way of dealing with depression and anxiety, and also to increase creativity as well as attention span.
Now, this study has brought religious practices under the same light, and only time will tell whether they would be as enthusiastically encouraged as meditation is by psychologists today.