Children born in a highly religious environment are more likely to exhibit selfish behavior and harsher punitive tendencies, a new research has found. Kids who are made aware of atheism and agnostic beliefs are more likely to be become altruistic as they grow old, the study claims.
In the study titled “The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the world,” a team of psychologists, headed by Dr. Jean Decety from the University of Chicago, found that family religious identification decreases children’s altruistic behaviors, and children from religious households who are thought to believe in gods are more violent in their punitive tendencies.
The study included 1, 170 children between ages 5 and 12 from Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey and the U.S. Their religious affiliation included Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and agnostic.
“Some past research had demonstrated that religious people aren’t more likely to do good than their non-religious counterparts. Our study goes beyond that by showing that religious people are less generous, and not only adults but children too,” Dr Decety said.
The result of the study revealed the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children’s altruism. The results challenge the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior, and call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, suggesting the secularization of moral discourse does not reduce human kindness. “In fact, it does just the opposite,” he said.
Religious affiliations are not associated with increased altruism in young children either. “Our findings robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households. Moreover, the negative relation between religiousness and spirituality and altruism changes across age, with those children with longer experience of religion in the household exhibiting the greatest negative relations,” Decety wrote in the report.