Older mothers more likely to instil religious values

11 June 2007

Children born since the turn of the millennium are more likely to grow up believing that religious values are important if they have an older mother, new research suggests.


Children born since the turn of the millennium are more likely to grow up believing that religious values are important if they have an older mother, new research suggests.

A UK-wide survey of more than 14,600 mothers found that those aged 35 and over placed more importance on religious teachings than younger women did. Almost all the mothers felt that children should be respectful and obedient but there was less consensus over religious precepts.

The younger the mother the less likely she was to say that such values should be passed on to children. Two-thirds of mothers aged 35 and over believed they should be but only 38 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds agreed.

The mothers were questioned when their child was aged three for a study that is tracking more than 15,000 “children of the new century” born between 2000 and 2002.

Researchers from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education, University of London, also found that that Northern Irish mothers placed more importance on religious values than mothers in other UK countries. Eighty-five per cent of Northern Irish mothers felt they were important, compared to just over half the mothers interviewed in England, Wales and Scotland.

The vast majority of Pakistani, Black African and Bangladeshi mothers also had high regard for religious values (98, 96 and 94 per cent respectively) but the UK average for White mothers was only 54 per cent.

Professor Heather Joshi, director of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, said: “It will be interesting to see how mothers’ different views on what is important in parenting relate to children’s behaviour and achievement later on. This is something that our study will be able to reveal in the future.”

Notes for editors:

1) The Centre for Longitudinal Studies is an Economic and Social Research Council Resource Centre based at the Institution of Education. The Centre houses three internationally-renowned birth cohort studies: the 1958 National Child Development Study, the 1970 British Cohort Study and the Millennium Cohort Study. The Millennium Cohort Study is co-funded by a number of government departments.

2) The second sweep of the Millennium Cohort Study collected information from 15,590 families of children born across the UK in 2000-2 when they reached the age of three. Almost all of these families (14,898) had been in the first survey when the children were nine-months-old. An additional 692 families were recruited for the second survey in England who had been eligible for the first survey but not included. The study’s first sweep, carried out during 2001-2, laid the foundations for this major new longitudinal research resource, involving a year-long cohort of around 19,000 babies. It recorded the circumstances of pregnancy and birth, the all-important early months of life, and the social and economic backgrounds of the families into which the children were born. The second survey data allow researchers for the first time to chart the changing circumstances of these children and their families and offer some direct measurements of the children’s development at the age of three which can be related to their earlier experiences. The sample was designed to provide adequate numbers from areas with high proportions of minority-ethnic residents (in England) and high child poverty, as well as each country in the UK.

3) Mothers were shown a list of “values for children” and asked to name the ones that they personally considered important. The list comprised independence; obedience and respect; art of negotiation; respect for elders; doing well at school, and religious values.

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