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Psychology of Religion

Religion in Childhood and Adolescence

One of the ways into a study of this subject is to notice how widely writers differ in their thoughts about the religion in Childhood and Adolescence. There are two main views on this: the developmental view (J.Piaget; R.Goldman) and The original and continuing vision (E.Robinson).

The Developmental View of Religion in Childhood and Adolescence

To summarise in a very brief way, the first view assumes that childhood is a chronological period, a developmental stage separating infancy from adolescence. The second view is very critical of this approach. The second approach views childhood as an element of the whole person. It may temporarily disappear when puberty arrives; it may be suppressed, crippled or almost totally atrophied in later life. On the other hand ‘childhood’ may continue to develop and deepen with life.

Edward Robinson: The Original Vision

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Edward Robinson, author of The Original Vision, claims that the developmental theories of psychologists such as Piaget and Goldman, conentrating as they do on cognitive growth, fail to do justice to a spiritual sensitivity which may appear in children from a very early age.

The fact that children cannot communicate these experiences in words has led some theorists and teachers to conclude that religious understanding of any kind cannot occur before the age at which appropriate powers of expression appear. Robinson finds this approach patronizing. Indeed, children may have a more profound grasp of religion than adults.

In The Original Vision, Robinson quotes the following incident it speaks for itself:
‘I remember sitting in my mother’s lap at the age of 5, while she affectionately explained that the idea of a God was a very nice and poetic way of explaining things, but just like a fairy tale. i felt embarassed at what seemed abysmal blindness and ignorance and felt sorry for her.’

If you enjoyed this blog on religion in childhood and adolescence, you may be interested in an Assessment of Jung’s Treatment of Religion and A Criticism of Freud on Religion.

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