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Children as Religious Resources: The Role of Children in the Social Re‐Formation of Class, Culture, and Religious Identity

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Abstract

Based on observations and interviews in two churches representing two different strands of American Protestantism, I assess the ways in which children contribute to the social construction of class, culture, and religious identity for adults. Evidence comes from observing how congregations incorporate children into adult worship services and talk about them in texts and programs, and from the ways in which newer and long-term congregation members describe valuing and understanding children's ministries. These styles and their meanings reflect the history, heritage, and theological distinctives of these two strands of American Protestantism. Religion, I suggest, is not just good for children; children themselves are a religious resource whose presence in worship, service, and discourse helps to create and maintain a sense of identity, place, and meaning in the lives of worshipping adults.

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... Significantly, none of the aforementioned studies consider the dynamism of adult-child interaction or how children's religious culture might influence adult religious culture. One notable recent exception is Gallagher (2007) who argues that children themselves are a religious resource whose presence in worship, service, and discourse helps to create and maintain a sense of identity, place and meaning in the lives of adults. In Gallagher's (2007, p. 176) view ''children are also resources for the development of adult religious and cultural identity through their reference in congregational prayers, sermons, and other texts.'' ...
... It is particularly interesting to contrast these depictions with a prayer cited in Gallagher (2007): ...
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... Therefore, when mitigating the effect of education on the level of religiosity, it is vital to know the national context. On the other hand, in the literature we come across theories that claim that young people become more religious with the passage of years in life, especially when they have children (Bengtson, Silverstein, Putney, & Harris, 2015;Gallagher, 2007). When it comes to young people, the most important predictors of religiosity appear to be church attendance during high school by peers and ethnicity. ...
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... A return path that allows children to influence their parent is also plausible (Glass et al., 1986;Stolzenberg et al., 1995;. Research has established that children's religious identity development and involvement in their religious communities may help to reinforce parents' religious identity, as well as that of other adults in their religious community (Gallagher, 2007). Although the biblical passage in Isiah (11:6; "a little child shall lead them") is commonly misinterpreted, there is a long-noted association between parenthood and religiosity for young adults (Stolzenberg et al., 1995;Wilcox, 2002). ...
... Childless marrieds may also receive affirmation for their marriage, but not the repeated appreciation expressed to parents regarding their child's contribution to congregational life (Gallagher 2007). Married couples without children also cannot take advantage of all familyrelated offerings religious institutions feature, such as childcare, parenting classes, and more. ...
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... Church communities acting as "family" have been reported by various scholars (Gallagher, 2007), particularly with respect to the Black church in the United States; familial language is often employed so that other church members are sisters and brothers (Chatters, Taylor, Lincoln & Schroepfer, 2002;Johnson, 1999;McAdoo, 2007). In educational institutions kin-like relations (replete with familial terms such as brother or cousin) have been reported as occurring among "students of color" in college science classes; the data suggest that such relationships promote success (Konstantinos, Jones & Rodriguez, 2011;Olitsky, 2011). ...
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Religious communities are known to instill standards of achievement in their young people, but this observation may not apply as well to disadvantaged youth and their culture. In this study, we explore whether religious involvement enables youth in low-income neighborhoods to stay on track in school, rather than falling behind. Using data from two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we find that adolescents in low-income neighborhoods do not differ in their church attendance patterns from their peers in higher-income areas. However, their religious involvement is more likely to contribute to their academic progress than it is among youth in higher-income neighborhoods, even with adjustments for key risk and protective factors. This cross-level interaction involving youth church attendance shows a consistent relationship with several other measures of neighborhood disadvantage. We explore explanations for church attendance's uniquely positive effect in impoverished neighborhoods and its broader implications.
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Research on religion and delinquency has generally concluded that only minor forms of delinquency are affected by religious commitments. However, parents have not often been the focus of religion and delinquency research. This study explores the influence of parental religious identity and behavior on the serious delinquency of adolescent children. This analysis tested an intergenerational model of religious influence on delinquent behavior. Results suggest parental religious devotion protects girls considerably better than boys. In fact, it may amplify delinquency among boys, at least when controlling for other important influences such as autonomy and family satisfaction. Parents' conservative Protestant affiliation displays consistent negative direct effects on delinquency, but little indirect influence. This study reinforces the importance of considering linked lives in the development of youth, as well as the need to assess both direct and indirect religious influences.
Article
Also CSST Working Paper #29. http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/51160/1/392.pdf
Article
This study examines the multifaceted relationships between religious involvement and subjective well-being. Findings suggest that the beneficent effects of religious attendance and private devotion reported in previous studies are primarily indirect, resulting from their respective roles in strengthening religious belief systems. The positive influence of religious certainty on well-being, however, is direct and substantial: individuals with strong religious faith report higher levels of life satisfaction, greater personal happiness, and fewer negative psychosocial consequences of traumatic life events. Further, in models of life satisfaction only, the positive influence of existential certainty is especially pronounced for older persons and persons with low levels of formal education. Finally, there are persistent denominational variations in life satisfaction, but not in happiness: nondenominational Protestants, liberal Protestants, and members of nontraditional groups such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses report greater life satisfaction than do their unaffiliated counterparts, even with the effects of other dimensions of religiosity held constant. Several directions for additional research on religion and psychological well-being are discussed.
Article
The volume and quality of research on what we term the religion-health connection have increased markedly in recent years. This interest in the complex relationships between religion and mental and physical health is being fueled by energetic and innovative research programs in several fields, including sociology, psychology, health behavior and health education, psychiatry, gerontology, and social epidemiology. This article has three main objectives: (1) to briefly review the medical and epidemiologic research on religious factors and both physical health and mental health; (2) to identify the most promising explanatory mechanisms for religious effects on health, giving particular attention to the relationships between religious factors and the central constructs of the life stress paradigm, which guides most current social and behavioral research on health outcomes; and (3) to critique previous work on religion and health, pointing out limitations and promising new research directions.
Article
This study examined the vulnerability of infants' reactivated memories to modification. In three experiments, one hundred eight 3-month-olds learned to move a distinctive mobile by kicking. After the operant task was forgotten, its memory was recovered by a reactivation treatment. Immediately afterward, attempts were made to modify the reactivated memory by exposing infants to a novel mobile. Exposing the novel mobile immediately after the reactivation treatment did not affect the reactivated memory (Experiment 1). When exposure to the novel mobile was delayed for 24 hr, the novel mobile temporarily interfered with recognition of the original mobile, but did not modify the reactivated memory (Experiment 2). Only when the contingency was briefly associated with the novel mobile (an active-exposure procedure) was the reactivated memory modified (Experiment 3). These data reveal that infants' recently reactivated memories are surprisingly resistant to updating unless the operant contingency that established the original memory accompanies the new information.
Children's spirituality: Christian perspectives, research, and applications
  • D Ratcliff
Ratcliff, D., ed. 2004. Children's spirituality: Christian perspectives, research, and applications. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
Welcoming children: A practical theology of childhood Let the children come: Reimagining childhood from a Christian perspective
  • J A Mercer
Mercer, J. A. 2005. Welcoming children: A practical theology of childhood. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press. Miller-McLemore, B. 2003. Let the children come: Reimagining childhood from a Christian perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
A theory of structure
  • W H Sewell
Sewell, W. H. 1992. A theory of structure. American Journal of Sociology 98(1):1–29.
Lost in the fifties: The changing family and the nostalgic church. In Work, family and religion in contemporary society
  • P L Marler
Marler, P. L. 1995. Lost in the fifties: The changing family and the nostalgic church. In Work, family and religion in contemporary society, edited by N. Ammerman and W. C. Roof, pp. 23–60.
White soul: Country music, the church, and working Americans
  • T Sample
Sample, T. 1996. White soul: Country music, the church, and working Americans. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
  • Becker P. E.
  • Kilde J. H.