The link between spirituality and happiness is pretty well-established for teens and adults. More spirituality brings more happiness
Now a study has reached into the younger set, finding the same link in "tweens" and in kids in middle childhood.
Specifically, the study shows that children who feel that their lives have meaning and value and who develop deep, quality relationships — both measures of spirituality, the researchers claim — are happier.
Personal aspects of spirituality (meaning and value in one's own life) and communal aspects (quality and depth of inter-personal relationships) were both strong predictors of children's happiness, said study leader Mark Holder from the University of British Columbia in Canada and his colleagues Ben Coleman and Judi Wallace.
However, religious practices were found to have little effect on children's happiness, Holder said.
Religion is just one institutionalized venue for the practice of or experience of spirituality, and some people say they are spiritual but are less enthusiastic about the concept of God
Other research has shown a connection between well-adjusted and well-behaved children and religion, but that is not the same, necessarily, as happiness.
Spirituality trumps temperament
In an effort to identify strategies to increase children's happiness, Holder and colleagues set out to better understand the nature of the relationship between spirituality, religiousness and happiness in children aged 8 to 12 years.
A total of 320 children, from four public schools and two faith-based schools, completed six different questionnaires to rate their happiness, their spirituality, their religiousness and their temperament. Parents were also asked to rate their child's happiness and temperament.
A child's temperament was also an important predictor of happiness. In particular, happier children were more sociable and less shy.
The relationship between spirituality and happiness remained strong, even when the authors took temperament into account.
However, counterintuitively, religious practices — including attending church, praying and meditating — had little effect on a child's happiness
And therein may lie some useful information for parents.
"Enhancing personal meaning may be a key factor in the relation between spirituality and happiness," the researchers stated.
Strategies aimed at increasing personal meaning in children — such as expressing kindness towards others and recording these acts of kindness, as well as acts of altruism and volunteering — may help to make children happier, Holder suggests.
These findings were detailed in the Dec. 11 online edition of the Journal of Happiness Studies.
] Jan 13, 2009