Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Early Childhood Findings

07/10/2009

A burgeoning second strand of research in this area focuses on the influence of religiosity on early childhood development outcomes. Only a handful of studies have been completed on this topic. A smaller-scale study (Strayhorn et al., 1990) of Early Head Start families finds positive religiosity effects for parents, but no effect on child well-being outcomes. Using evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K) of over 9,000 kindergartners and first graders, Bartkowski et al. (2008) found significant associations between religiosity and a range of psychological and social adjustment outcomes in early childhood (including social competence, internalizing problem behaviors, externalizing behaviors, and cognitive ability).

Notably, specific measures of religiosity meaningfully influence the results. Three measures are examinedparents religiosity, religious homogamy of couples (couples that share the same religious beliefs, attitudes and denominations), and family religious environment. Parental church attendance has consistent positive effects, but results for family religious environment and parental religious homogamy are mixed. Family and couple discordance or arguments about religion are found to hinder child development. Moreover, Dye (2008) employs measures of child religiosity (based on parent reports) and also finds that children who attend religious activities fare better across a range of cognitive and socioemotional development outcomes than children who do not.

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