Benefits of religious upbringing overlooked

Officials working with families and children are missing the positive effect of religion on family life and parenting, a new report says.

Researchers from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation questioned young people and parents on their perceptions of the relationship between religion and family life.

They found that the views of religious parents on raising children reflect the core aspects of parenting identified in Government policy.

Yet the extent to which religion influences family life “is not readily recognised by Government”, the report concluded.

“It is not something limited to praying and attending places of worship,” it said, “but is a way of life influencing family relationships, decision-making, life choices and parenting styles”.

The report says official policy relating to children’s welfare either refers too little to religion or puts the emphasis on “oppression rather than recognising that religion, or indeed the other factors, can be a source of empowerment and resilience”.

The study also found that young people brought up in religious families – even if they chose not to follow that religion themselves – could see the value of being exposed to religious beliefs “in terms of its impact on later life choices”.

Policy-makers and professionals “cannot afford to be complacent about the influence of religion on family life” or “presume that religion only has negative influences”, the report said.

The authors concluded, “in the words of a young person who participated in this study, that ‘Religious parents just want what’s best for their kids’.”