Study Suggests Children with Religious Upbringing are Less Altruistic

By Karis Tutuska

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Figure Caption: Study tests altruism in children with religious and non-religious upbringings

Many assume that religion plays a crucial role in a child’s moral development. However, a recent study at the University of Chicago suggests that children raised with a religious background are less altruistic than those who are were raised secularly.

The experiment was conducted on children aged five to 12 from six different countries. Initially, the children’s parents completed a questionnaire indicating the family’s religious practices and whether they perceived their children to have a sense of empathy and justice.  To test altruism, each child was given ten stickers and asked whether they wanted to share them with another child.  To test moral sensitivity, each child was shown videos of children shoving others and asked what their punishment should be.


The children from religious backgrounds were found less likely to share their stickers and more likely to suggest harsher punishments for the bullies in the video. Contrary to popular belief, this study suggests that a religious upbringing does not prompt moral development more than a secular upbringing. Rather, a non-religious upbringing may even produce kinder and more socially conscious children.


  1. Decety et al. The negative association between religiousness and children’s altruism across the world. Science Daily (2015).

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