A Multidimensional Approach to Children's Drawings of God in French-Speaking Switzerland: A Developmental and Socio-Cultural Account


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
A Multidimensional Approach to Children's Drawings of God in French-Speaking Switzerland: A Developmental and Socio-Cultural Account
Brandt Pierre-Yves
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté de théologie et de sciences des religions
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The current thesis has investigated children’s representations of God in French-speaking Switzerland by relying mainly on visual data (i.e., drawings). A sample of N = 532 drawings of God were collected among 5- to 17-year-olds, girls and boys, who were met either during religious class or during regular schooling. Three lines of inquiry have addressed the following respective issues: de- anthropomorphization, gender-typing and emotional expression. The first two lines of inquiry were motivated by the further examination of main topics tackled in past research. The last one was meant to confront an issue that was never specifically addressed before, although prevalent across such data. For each line of inquiry, a quantitative study was completed by a more specific qualitative exploration.
Whether children would depict God as anthropomorphic or non-anthropomorphic depended on age and schooling. Being older and receiving religious education were associated with non- anthropomorphic representations. Whether a human God figure would endorse non-humanness (be de-anthropomorphized) only depended on age: the older the more likely de-anthropomorphized. Regarding the way children attribute gender to God (gender-typing), depended on age and participants’ own gender. The older the more likely God would be depicted as masculine (frequency) and the more strongly so (intensity). Girls were less inclined to draw God as masculine than boys (frequency and intensity). Overall, God was predominantly masculine, although also mixed (masculine but also feminine) up to some degree. Emotional expression was assessed on intensity (relatively intense) and valence (from positive to negative). Mainly gender and schooling contributed to those dimensions: being a girl and receiving religious schooling were associated with more intensity and positive valence. Age influenced only valence: the older the more positive.
Overall, the idea of ‘mature’ God representations was empirically undermined, based on the prevailing ambivalence (understood as the co-existing opposites) across dimensions. There was a general developmental dependency for most dimensions examined, as well as differential (e.g., based on gender) variations. The assessment of distinct dimensions along all three lines of inquiry pointed to contrastive progressions. While humanness-non-humanness (de-anthropomorphization) evolved towards more ambivalence, the opposite was observed for gender-typing and emotional expression.
The current thesis indicates the particularly intricate nature of God representations through the complexity of specific dimensions they consist of and their relationships with participants’ socio- demographics. This may provide a better insight into how individuals would then conceive of the divine later in adulthood, by grasping their foundations and evolution in childhood.
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01/03/2019 15:17
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20/08/2019 16:26
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