Nav: Home

Children in India demonstrate religious tolerance, study finds

June 14, 2018

A new investigation of how children reason about religious rules reveals a remarkable level of acceptance of different religions' rules and practices.

The study, appearing in the June 13 online edition of Child Development, found that both Hindu and Muslim children in India thought that Hindu children should follow Hindu norms and Muslim children should follow Muslim norms.

"Even in a region with a long history of high religious tension, we see impressive levels of religious tolerance among children," said study co-author Audun Dahl, assistant professor of psychology at UC Santa Cruz. "Children think that people in different religions should follow their own norms--and that's a starting point, a reason for optimism."

Very little research has been done on how children reason about religious norms, despite the fact that differences between religious norms underpin conflicts around the globe, including Catholic/Protestant clashes in Europe and differences among Sunni and Shia Muslims, noted Dahl. Religious norms dictate practices from clothing and land ownership to reproduction, he said, with adult adherents frequently wanting others to adhere to their norms.

"Children expressed preferences for their own religion, but we found no evidence of children rejecting the norms of the other religion," said Dahl, adding that such tolerance is the first step toward greater harmony.

Exploring religious tolerance

Dahl and coauthors Mahesh Srinivasan at UC Berkeley and Elizabeth Kaplan at Syracuse University wanted to see if children would extend their thinking about their own religious norms to other groups. In other words, would Hindu children think that all children should follow Hindu norms? And would Muslim children believe that all children should follow Muslim norms?

"As it turned out, both Hindu and Muslim children thought that the norms of a religion applied only to followers of that religion. For instance, almost no participants thought Muslim kids should follow Hindu norms, but at least half thought Muslim kids should follow Muslim norms," said Dahl. Rather than applying their own religious norms to all others, children endorsed the right of each religion to have its own religious norms.

The study took place in Gujarat, India, a region with a history of Hindu-Muslim violence. Investigators worked with 100 children ages 9 to 15, focusing on different Hindu norms, such as the prohibition against eating beef, and Muslim norms, such as the prohibition against worshipping an idol. They also asked the children about hitting people to explore the youngsters' reasoning around moral norms.

"The tendency to restrict the norms of one's own religion only to followers of that religion, and to expect members of another religious group to follow their own customs, may contribute to peaceful coexistence," said Dahl.

Religious norms as distinct from other social norms

The researchers also asked children about moral norms about how to treat others. Fully 95 percent of children--regardless of religion--asserted that it's not okay to hit people. Perhaps more surprisingly, most children thought it was wrong to hit someone even if hitting was permitted by religious authorities or a god. Dahl said this speaks to the difference between religious norms and moral norms.

Yet, children also viewed religious norms as different from social conventions or personal preferences. "Religious beliefs are about truth and falsehood. They are about which god, or gods, exist, and which gods are right," he said. "They don't lend themselves to pluralism as easily as personal preferences or social conventions do."

Most religious people believe their god is the true god, so the researchers thought there was a good chance that Hindu children, for example, would think that Muslim children--as well as Hindu children--should follow Hindu norms.

"In the Hindu religion, the cow is a holy animal, so you could expect Hindu children to say it is wrong for anyone to kill and eat cows," said Dahl. "But that's not what we found. Most Hindu children thought Muslims could eat beef, and should follow Muslim rather than Hindu norms."

Dahl and Srinivasan plan to further explore how children integrate religious norms as distinct from social norms regarding what's right and wrong, including hitting others. "Religions often aren't explicit about the scope of their norms and whether they apply to non-followers, so there's a question about how children apply the fundamental concepts to actual, complicated scenarios of real life," Dahl said. "It's fascinating."

These findings offer hope that exposure to conflicts over religious differences, like those experienced by children in many regions of the world, need not lead children to develop negative attitudes toward the religious practices of other groups. "Rather, perhaps these levels of understanding will play a role in reducing conflict over time," said Dahl.
-end-


University of California - Santa Cruz

Related Children Articles:

Preterm children have similar temperament to children who were institutionally deprived
A child's temperament is affected by the early stages of their life.
Only-children more likely to be obese than children with siblings
Families with multiple children tend to make more healthy eating decisions than families with a single child.
Children living in countryside outperform children living in metropolitan area in motor skills
Residential density is related to children's motor skills, engagement in outdoor play and organised sports. that Finnish children living in the countryside spent more time outdoors and had better motor skills than their age peers in the metropolitan area.
Hispanic and black children more likely to miss school due to eczema than white children
In a study that highlights racial disparities in the everyday impact of eczema, new research shows Hispanic and black children are more likely than white children to miss school due to the chronic skin disease.
Children, their parents, and health professionals often underestimate children's higher weight status
More than half of parents underestimated their children's classification as overweight or obese -- children themselves and health professionals also share this misperception, according to new research being presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, UK (April 28-May 1).
Children with autism are in 'in-tune' with mom's feelings like other children
New research addresses limitations of prior autism spectrum disorder (ASD) studies on facial emotion recognition by using five distinct facial emotions in unfamiliar and familiar (mom) faces to test the influence of familiarity in children with and without ASD.
First Nations children and youth experiencing more pain than non-First Nations children
First Nations children and youth are experiencing more pain than non-First Nations children, but do not access specialist or mental health services at the same rate as their non-First Nations peers, found new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Grandparents: Raising their children's children, they get the job done
Millions of children are being raised solely by their grandparents, with numbers continuing to climb as the opioid crisis and other factors disrupt families.
How do you assess pain in children who can't express themselves? New research identifies priorities in identifying pain in nonverbal children with medical complexity
Pain is a frequent problem for children with complex medical conditions -- but many of them are unable to communicate their pain verbally.
Under age 13, suicide rates are roughly double for black children vs. white children
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that racial disparities in suicide rates are age-related.
More Children News and Children Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.