Babysitting a factor in survival of religion?
24 January 2019
Why isn't religion declining as rapidly in New Zealand as a decades-long trend would suggest?
A recently-released collaborative study from researchers across New Zealand might have discovered a key to this religious resurgence.
The study, led by Dr John Shaver at the University of Otago, found that religious New Zealanders tend to have more children because they receive more cooperative childcare. Put simply, there is more babysitting available to people who belong to religious groups.
The study also found that religious people without children do nearly twice as much babysitting as their secular counterparts.
Co-author Professor Joseph Bulbulia, from the University of Auckland's Faculty of Arts, says this finding is consistent with evidence that religious groups tend to share cooperative burdens, on average, when compared with secular groups.
The logic goes that women tend to have more children if they get help to look after them, and children born to religious parents are more likely to be religious themselves, thereby keeping religious beliefs alive across generations.
This result is an important first step for explaining a phenomenon that is vital for predicting the beliefs and values that people will hold in the future.
Dr Shaver and his co-authors hope the research will draw attention to the impact of a person's religious behaviour on core biological and sociological processes.
The study drew on responses from a large and diverse national sample of Kiwis who are participating in the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study, a 20-year longitudinal probability study of social attitudes and health led by Professor Chris Sibley, also from the University of Auckland, alongside more than 40 national and international collaborators.
However, Professor Bulbulia says "babysitting" explains only part of the puzzle of religious fertility.
"This result is an important first step for explaining a phenomenon that is vital for predicting the beliefs and values that people will hold in the future."
Julianne Evans | Media adviser
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