Researchers at the University of British Columbia have made a discovery that they found most startling. Mark Holder, professor of psychology at UBC, and his graduate assistant, Judi Wallace, confessed that they were quite surprised when their research revealed that “spirituality” accounted for 6.5 – 16.5 percent of children’s “happiness.”
While numerous studies have shown the positive impact of spirituality on adults’ mental and physical well-being, the Canadian researchers expected less impact on children. Dr. Holder said that they found that “it’s a whopping big effect. . . I thought their spirituality would be too immature to account for their well-being.”
As part of the research, children 9 to 12 were asked to respond to statements such as, “I feel a higher power’s presence” and were asked such questions as “how often do you pray or meditate privately outside of church or other places of worship?”
The Canadian study found that “spirituality” trumped by a significant measure all other factors such as gender, financial status, or the type of school (public or private, co-ed or single sex, boarding or day) a child attended in generating happiness and contentment in the children studied.
These results reinforce the findings of the exhaustively documented Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities (2003) which found among other things that “religiosity and spirituality significantly influence well-being” and “the human brain appears to be organized to ask ultimate questions and seek ultimate answers.” In other words, it seems human beings are “hardwired” to seek ultimate answers in a power greater than themselves.
Could it be that both of these studies are scientific commentaries on Blaise Pascal’s (1623-1662) philosophical insight nearly four centuries ago, that “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator . . . ?”
I think so.