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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Correspondence Between Parents’ and Children’s Scientific and Religious Concepts

  • Author(s): Saide, Anondah
  • Advisor(s): Richert, Rebekah
  • et al.

The enculturation of abstract concepts involves the interaction between attributes of the child (e.g., age, reasoning heuristics) with factors that are extrinsic, such as the cultural context. The present study examined the degree to which parents and children correspond in their concepts of a religious entity (i.e., God) and a scientific entity (i.e., germs). The influence of parent context on correspondence of concepts of God and germs was also examined by measuring the predictive power of (a) characteristics intrinsic to the parent (e.g., parent’s beliefs and values) and (b) the social learning situations created by parents (e.g., engagement of children in behaviors and discourse related to the entities). Participants included 123 parent-child dyads diverse in ethnic and religious background. Children were between 5-and-8.9 years of age. The following central findings emerged: First, parents and children separately conceptualized the psychological and physiological properties of God and germs in ways consistent with prior research. Second, correspondence between parents and children was lowest for God’s physiological properties (i.e., children thought God had physiological properties and parents did not) and highest for germs’ psychological properties (i.e., both parents and children conceptualized germs as lacking psychological properties). Third, parent context factors were most influential for correspondence of God’s psychological properties. These results suggest that children’s intuitive reasoning about agents during the early-to-middle childhood period of development may impact the influence of parents on abstract concept development; and that parent contexts are more influential for the correspondence of religious, as opposed to scientific concepts.

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