GOD CONCEPTS IN CHILDREN: BELIEFS ABOUT THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD AND IMPLICATIONS FOR LUTHERAN CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION

LAWRENCE EMANUEL SOHN, Marquette University

Abstract

Children's concepts of God are considered to be foundational to their religious development. Religious educators could benefit from an accurate assessment of God concepts in children: curriculum writers and teachers could more effectively carry out their responsibilities. This quantitative descriptive study seeks (1) to provide a base of information on what elementary age children believe about attributes of God, (2) to compare this information with what teachers and curriculum writers assume children believe, and (3) to compare this information with that from a related 1957 study. The "Ideas About God" inventory (from Graebner's 1960 Child Concepts of God) was revised for this study. Each of 20 line drawings (basically religiously neutral in content) elicits freely worded expressions from children. It is assumed that students will project their beliefs about God in these responses. The sample consisted of a geographically stratified random national sampling of 485 second, fifth, and seventh graders (representative of primary, middle, and upper grades) in 12 Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod schools, and their 36 teachers joined by 28 curriculum writers. A categorizing key facilitated placing student responses into categories. Data were also gathered on student demographic, educational, and behavior variables. Computer-developed chi-square tables enabled a search for relationships between selected student variables and student response categories. Analysis of data indicates that growth in comprehension of God attributes does take place especially along age/grade lines. Limited differences were noted on the basis of mental ability. A larger sample would be needed to demonstrate significant differences along the other student variables. Teachers and curriculum writers were equally able to predict response categories students would choose. Fifth and seventh grade responses were predicted more accurately than second graders'. Findings generally parallel the 1957 study, except that 1985 students seem better able to express the forgiveness concept. Baseline data are presented, against which primary, middle, and upper grade teachers could compare results obtained from using the inventory in their classrooms. Future studies could be conducted to make slight modifications in the instrument and categorizing key, to enlarge the sample, and to search for differences among denominations.

Recommended Citation

LAWRENCE EMANUEL SOHN, "GOD CONCEPTS IN CHILDREN: BELIEFS ABOUT THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD AND IMPLICATIONS FOR LUTHERAN CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION" (January 1, 1985). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI8526791.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI8526791

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