Shaver and his colleagues recently published a paper exploring the effects of religious support on fertility and child development. They used ten years of data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which recruited over 14,000 pregnant women in England in the early 1990s to track ever since—on measures such as children’s lead exposure to number of illnesses to developmental ups and downs. From this data they tested how church attendance and social support affected family size and child development.
Unsurprisingly, they found that religious families had more children. They also found that, on the whole, the more siblings a child had, the shorter the child was and the lower his scores on state standardized achievement tests. This “tradeoff” falls in line with previous studies showing that larger family sizes dilute parental resources and affect child outcomes. But the finding didn’t hold for families with support from religious communities. In fact, Shaver and his colleagues found that religious support sometimes correlated with higher test scores.
These findings, Shaver wrote, suggest that religious communities overcome the tradeoffs between number of children and child success by sharing resources, a practice anthropologists call “alloparenting.” While the term is erudite, it’s something humans have done throughout history. Only in recent decades, as social and family connections have frayed, has it become less common.
A new study from grantee @johnhshaver and his team suggests that religious communities overcome the tradeoffs between number of children and child success by sharing resources. Read more in @ctmagazine: https://t.co/cCBG8UT78B
— John Templeton Foundation (@templeton_fdn) January 29, 2021