This paper summarizes some stage theories of religious development which are rooted in the Piagetian tradition. Some of the assumptions and presuppositions of R. On the basis of exploratory studies about the development of the concept of salvation in children and adolescents among the SDA population, some suggestions are presented as a new theoretical model of religious regularities of mental development of children of early age applicable to many religious populations.
INTRODUCTION Religious development in children and adolescents is a research area of increasing interest to developmental psychologists, theorists of religious development, religious educators, and designers of religious education curricula, especially in Christian settings. Historically, however, religious development received little consideration during the growth of psychology, contributed to a secular, humanistic perspective of human behavior. Behaviorism and psychoanalysis, with their atheistic presuppositions, formed a generation of psychologists with an agnostic attitude about God and supernatural phenomena. Therefore, religious thinking and behavior were not dealt with as broadly as other psychological manifestations. In psychoanalytical works, religious experiences were studied, but as pathological occurrences. The few investigation performed in the area of religious development have occurred mostly during the second half of the present century. In most cases, where an examination of the developmental course for some aspect of religious thinking or experience was intended, samples have been randomly selected.
Therefore, most of the studies have been multidenominational–with subjects having diverse levels of commitment to their religious beliefs–or have been conducted with secular populations–based on secular presuppositions. However, his stage theory lacks sufficient empirical support. The present paper begins with a review of salient research about stage theories of religious development from psychological perspective. STAGE THEORY OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT The development of cognitive psychology generated a theoretical framework which was adopted and applied in the field of religious experience, principally concerning the development of religious thinking. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development has had an extraordinary influence in psychological research during the last 40 years.
Originated and developed in Switzerland, this theory was practically completed by the 1950’s and well known among psychologists, although it did not become popular in the United States until the 1960s and 1970s. At each developmental level, the products of thought are determined by the interaction of developmental and experiential factors. Piaget’s developmental cognitive theory is briefly outlined here for purposes of understanding some of its principal postulates. The Sensorimotor Period is the stage that extends from birth to the acquisition of language.
The child is born with innate reflex mechanisms. The Pre-operational Period, during which representation and symbolic functions appear, extends from two to six or seven years. In this period, the child learns to use symbol such as words to represent people, places, and events. The appearance of language in the child brings three essential consequences for mental development: the socialization of the action, the thought in itself, and the intuition.