Study explores the effects of religion on child development

John Bartkowski, lead researcher, in his study.

John Bartkowski, lead researcher, in his study. Photo Courtesy of UTSA

Julia Maenius

John Bartkowski, a UTSA professor of sociology, conducted a study on the effects of religion on the development of young children.
“I study cultural influences on personal and community well-being, including religion, life course development and health as well as faith-based organizations efforts at reversing social disadvantage,” Bartkowski said.
Through studying the data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) Kindergarten Cohort, Bartkowski and his team concluded that faith commonly has a pronounced impact on people’s lives.
“Often, the impact [of religion] is positive, but there are at times mixed results,” Bartkowski said. “Where life chances are concerned, religion often helps but sometimes hurts.”
Bartkowski’s team consisted of UTSA students seeking to improve their professional opportunities.
“I’m thrilled and fortunate to work with capable students,” Bartkowski said. “I’m grateful for their work and what I learn from them. Everyone benefits from these collaborations.”
As the study was conducted, the team analyzed how a religious atmosphere that parents create influence the subject group of third-graders. The team noted the psychological, interpersonal and academic abilities of the children.
“We accounted for child characteristics in the initial wave, so we are measuring developmental gains and losses across waves,” Bartkowski said. “We use analytical techniques that allow us to establish levels of statistical significance, essentially confidence in the findings.”
This particular study was conducted almost ten years prior and Batkowski reopened it with more complete data, yielding an expanded knowledge of the subject.
“I usually am picking up on studies I’ve previously conducted but often with newer or more complete data to enrich the findings,” Bartkowski said. “Scholarship sometimes amounts to an ongoing dialogue with our colleagues such as coauthors or peer reviewers, and, at times, the dialogue is with our previous research.”
As the study is continued, Bartkowski and his team will be studying the children into their preteen and teenage years. The team will be analyzing what aspects of religion help them, and which ones do not as the children reach adulthood.
“A society can perhaps best be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, including its children,” Bartkowski said. “Children’s developmental trajectories should be carefully considered by all, and research can be an important part of those considerations.”