Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Self Esteem and Religious Faith

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: So, what role does religion play if building a teenager's self-esteem? We hinted at that a minute ago. According to a recent survey of eighth-grade students, quite a bit. And joining us now to explain all that is Rebecca Nolan, a professor of psychology from Louisiana State University, one of the authors of the study. Dr. Nolan, thank you for joining us.


FRAZIER: You looked at attitudes held by more than 1,000 eighth- graders. Was religion your intended focus, or did it surprise you that it was such a big contributor to self-esteem?

NOLAN: Yes, it was one of the things that we were looking at. Dr. Young Die (ph) of LSUS and Dr. Jing Zing (ph) of Wells College in New York and I were particularly interested in this issue. So, we looked at this survey, a national survey, which was collected by the University of Michigan through a federal grant, and we really wanted to see if there was going to be an affect of religion on early adolescents' self-esteem, and we found that the more involved with religion that these early adolescents were, that the higher their level of self-esteem.

FRAZIER: Now, why do you think that is? Is that because of their belief in the all-mighty, or some kind of a doctrinal support, or because of youth groups and other sort of support organizations that are created around organized religion?

NOLAN: Well, the students who answered this survey graded themselves according to their degree of religious involvement. There were four different levels.

The first level was very involved, and this means that they went to church more than one time a week.

Involved was going to church once a week.

Somewhat involved was going to church occasionally.

And the last category was not involved at all.

The different sexes were not differentiated. So, they were looking at how involved with religion the student reported their activity.

FRAZIER: Any faith? It didn't matter what organized religion it was?

NOLAN: No, it didn't.

FRAZIER: And did you say that the more involved they were, the better their self-esteem was?

NOLAN: Yes, it was. We looked at a measure of self-esteem, where there were four possible ways to answer and four negative ways, and with the positive answers they were looking at things such as "I feel satisfied with myself," "I feel I'm a person of worth."

FRAZIER: And those are important questions to ask for an eighth- grader. I understand that's sort of a crossroads year?

NOLAN: Yes, it is. They are changing physically, psychologically and they are at a point where they are ready to venture beyond what they have known in the past. And they need a foundation from which to explore.

FRAZIER: Doesn't the family provide some of that foundation? I mean, are the families religious too, or are these children finding their way to churches on their own?

NOLAN: We are assuming that they are introduced into this setting by their caretakers. The caretaker takes the child to church, and continues with the child with the activity.

FRAZIER: Final question, because we are getting ready to leave now, but what do you make of this argument that today's youngsters may have too much self-esteem, that they are a little bit self-absorbed and are a little bit hollow inside as a result of all this cheer leading we do as parents?

NOLAN: It's very important to be very positive with children and adolescents, but adolescent and children need accomplishments. They need to do concrete things which relate to their self-esteem, not just to be told that they are a good person, but also to do things which they feel make them good people.

FRAZIER: Which they recognize are true accomplishments, not just gimmes from those of us who are praising them all the time.

NOLAN: Exactly.

FRAZIER: Well, professor Nolan, thank you for joining us to explain the study, a significant outcome there. Dr. Rebecca Nolan at Louisiana State. 


Take your kids to church if you want them to be confident and have eternal life.

Gary Sweeten

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