No study has examined the longitudinal development of God concepts in early childhood, and minimal research has examined children from different religious backgrounds. As patterns of change have implications for cultural and evolutionary models of religious cognition, the proposed research is a 5-wave longitudinal study of individual differences in children’s God concept development. From an existing sample, 3.5 to 7 year old children from 4 religious subgroups will be tested at multiple waves for concepts of God, supernatural causality, prayer, and rituals. The research questions reflect three of the competition’s priority areas: What is the within-person developmental trajectory of God concepts and what are the between-person factors that influence the developmental trajectory of God concepts? How do children’s concepts of God relate to their concepts of prayer, ritual, and miracles? What is the relationship between different ways of measuring children’s concepts of God, supernatural causality, and religious practices? Primary outputs will be a longitudinal data set, a conceptual paper on socio-cultural approaches to the evolution of religious cognition, and empirical articles based on the longitudinal data set. Other outputs will be a website devoted to this project where academic and non-academic audiences can access summaries of the findings and media interviews to raise public awareness of the findings. Outcomes will affect both academic and non-academic audiences by contributing new methodologies and increasing the diversity of participants in research. The enduring impact falls into three long-term goals: (a) expand the diversity of research participants upon which conclusions are drawn, (b) increase awareness in the field of psychology of the importance of considering religion and the influence of religion in explanations of human thought and behavior, and (c) train new scholars in research methods and theories related to children’s religious development.
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