The Study of Children in Religions

A Methods Handbook

325 pages

2 illustrations

November, 2011

ISBN: 9780814776469



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Susan B. Ridgely is Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and the author of When I Was a Child: Children's Interpretations of First Communion.

All books by Susan B. Ridgely

Research in religious studies has traditionally focused on adult subjects since working with children presents significantly more challenges to the researcher, such as getting the research protocol passed by the Internal Review Board, obtaining permission from parents and schools, and figuring out how to make sense of young worldviews. The Study of Children in Religions provides scholars with a comprehensive source to assist them in addressing many of the issues that often stop researchers from pursuing projects involving children.

This handbook offers a broad range of methodological and conceptual models for scholars interested in conducting work with children.  It not only illuminates some of the legal and ethical issues involved in working with youth and provides guidance in getting IRB approval, but also presents specific case studies from scholars who have engaged in child-centered research and here offer the fruits of their experience. Cases include those that use  interviews and drawings to work with children in contemporary settings, as well as more historically focused endeavors to use material culture—such as Sunday school projects or religious board games—to study children’s religious lives in past eras.

The Study of Children in Religions offers concrete help to those who wish to conduct research on children and religion but are unsure of how to get started or how to frame their research.  


  • Ridgely has done a fine job assembling a mixture of diverse topics and approaches to children’s perspectives on spirituality and religious beliefs and practices. The combination of global case studies with useful methodological primers on such subjects as institutional review boards will appeal to a wide swath of social scientists of all stripes, as well as policy makers. Its comparative, interdisciplinary nature makes it a valuable resource for two of the most vibrant contemporary research fields, childhood studies and religious studies.”

    —Melissa Klapper, author of The Experiences of Immigrant Children in the United States, 1880-1925

  • “In this timely volume, contributors from a range of disciplines seek to understand children’s perspectives on their religious beliefs and practices and their own spiritual lives. All of the contributors are highly sensitive to both the limitations and benefits of studying children’s own perceptions and experiences, and the book as a whole addresses a range of significant methodological and ethical issues regarding research of and with children. By taking seriously the voices and agency of children, the volume contributes to childhood and religious studies and speaks to all those who care about children’s moral, spiritual, and religious needs and capacities.”

    —Marcia Bunge, author of Children and Childhood in World Religions: Primary Sources and Texts