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Spirituality makes kids happier

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Spirituality is much more important in determining whether children are happy than it is for adults reports a new study by the Canadian University of British Columbia.

Researchers tested 315 children aged nine to 12, measuring spirituality and other factors such as temperament and social relations that can affect an individual’s sense of happiness.

Associate Professor of Psychology Mark Holder said the goal of the study was to see whether there’s a relation between spirituality and happiness.

“We knew going in that there was such a relation in adults, so we took multiple measures of spirituality and happiness in children.”

While spirituality typically accounts for four or five per cent of an adult’s happiness, 6.5 to 16.5 per cent of children’s happiness can be accounted for by spirituality.

“From our perspective, it’s a whopping big effect,” says Holder. “I expected it to be much less – I thought their spirituality would be too immature to account for their well-being.”

The research described spirituality as having an inner belief system but cautioned that spirituality is not religiosity, which is often more organized, and may be church-based.

Factors such as gender or money contribute very little to happiness, says Holder. “In fact, the contribution of money to happiness explains less than one per cent.”

They also found that whether children attend public or private school has virtually no impact on their happiness.

The researchers identified several possible reasons why spirituality and happiness are linked. Spirituality produces a sense of meaning, it stimulates hope, reinforces positive social norms, and can provide a social support network – all things that can improve a person’s well-being.

The team’s findings were presented at the World Congress on Psychology and Spirituality in India in January.

Research Assistant Judi Wallace said what they are learning is useful in their own own lives.

“At the dinner table, we ask our own children to list all the good things that happened that day. It’s actually pretty easy to increase the happiness of your family.”

“We do take the research personally,” Holder agrees. “It’s not just academic to us.”

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