Date of Thesis
Parents and children, starting at very young ages, discuss religious and spiritual issuesÂ¿where we come from, what happens to us after we die, is there a God, and so on. Unfortunately, few studies have analyzed the content and structure of parent-child conversation about religion and spirituality (Boyatzis & Janicki, 2003; Dollahite & Thatcher, 2009), and most studies have relied on self-report with no direct observation. The current study examined mother-child (M-C) spiritual discourse to learn about its content, structure, and frequency through a survey inventory in combination with direct video observation using a novel structured task. We also analyzed how mothersÂ¿ religiosity along several major dimensions related to their communication behaviors within both methods. Mothers (N = 39, M age = 40) of children aged 3-12 completed a survey packet on M-C spiritual discourse and standard measures of mothersÂ¿ religious fundamentalism, intrinsic religiosity, sanctification of parenting (how much the mother saw herself as doing GodÂ¿s work as a parent), and a new measure of parental openness to childrenÂ¿s spirituality. Then, in a structured task in our lab, mothers (N = 33) and children (M age = 7.33) watched a short film or read a short book that explored death in an age-appropriate manner and then engaged in a videotaped conversation about the movie or book and their religious or spiritual beliefs. Frequency of M-C spiritual discourse was positively related to mothersÂ¿ religious fundamentalism (r = .71, p = .00), intrinsic religiosity (r = .77, p = .00), and sanctification of parenting (r = .79, p = .00), but, surprisingly, was inversely related to mothersÂ¿ v openness to childÂ¿s spirituality (r = -.52, p = .00). Survey data showed that the two most common topics discussed were God (once a week) and religion as it relates to moral issues (once a week). According to mothers their childrenÂ¿s most common method of initiating spiritual discourse was to repeat what he or she has heard parents or family say about religious issues (M = 2.97; once a week); mothersÂ¿ most common method was to describe their own religious/spiritual beliefs (M = 2.92). Spiritual discourse most commonly occurred either at bedtime or mealtime as reported by 26% of mothers, with the most common triggers reported as daily routine/random thoughts (once a week) and observations of nature (once a week). MothersÂ¿ most important goals for spiritual discourse were to let their children know that they love them (M = 3.72; very important) and to help them become a good and moral person (M = 3.67; very important). A regression model showed that significant variance in frequency of mother-child spiritual discourse (R2 = .84, p = .00) was predicted by the mothersÂ¿ importance of goals during discourse (ÃŸ = 0.46, p = .00), frequency that the motherÂ¿s spirituality was deepened through spiritual discourse (ÃŸ = 0.39, p = .00), and the motherÂ¿s fundamentalism (ÃŸ = 0.20, p = .05). In a separate regression, the motherÂ¿s comfort in the structured task (ÃŸ = 0.70, p = .00), and the number of open-ended questions she asked (ÃŸ = -0.26, p = .03) predicted the reciprocity between mother and child (R2 = .62, p = .00). In addition, the motherÂ¿s age (ÃŸ = 0.22, p = .059) and comfort during the task (ÃŸ = 0.73, p = .00) predicted the childÂ¿s engagement within the structured task. Other findings and theoretical and methodological implications will be discussed.
Spiritual Discourse, Mother-Child, Religious Spiritual Development, RSD, Bidirectionality, Reciprocity, Discourse, Spirituality, Religiosity, Religion, Family
Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)
Master of Science
Bonanno, Philip A., "Mother-Child Spiritual Discourse: A Mixed Methods Study" (2013). Master’s Theses. 93.