Socio-Cognitive and Cultural Influences on Children’s Concepts of God

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA
  • 2 University of California, Riverside, CA, USA

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Abstract

The current study examined (a) the impact of religious socialization practices and parents’ concepts on the development of an abstract religious concept (i.e., God) in young children, and (b) whether or not children’s socio-cognitive ability moderates the relationship between their religious concept and sources of information about the concept. 215 parent-child dyads from diverse religious backgrounds (Protestant Christian, Roman Catholic, Muslim, non-affiliated) participated. Children were between the ages of 3.52 and 6.98 years of age (M = 4.770, SD = .767). Four main findings emerged from this study. First, children conceptualized God as more humanlike than their parents did. Second, younger children were more likely to have a humanlike conception of God than older children. Third, parents’ concept of God and children’s concept of God had a stronger relationship when the child’s mental-state reasoning was more accurate. Fourth, the frequency of children’s engagement in religious practices was unrelated to children’s concept of God after controlling for child’s age. Taken together, these findings lend support for the view that social cognition is an important factor in young children’s acquisition of cultural information about abstract entities.

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