Spirituality, religion, and pediatrics: intersecting worlds of healing

Pediatrics. 2000 Oct;106(4 Suppl):899-908.


Religious practices such as prayer represent the most prevalent complementary and alternative therapies in the United States. However, biomedicine has sometimes viewed faith and related religious worldviews as relevant only when they obstruct implementation of scientifically sound biomedical care. Recent efforts to arrive at a new synthesis raise challenges for pediatricians. This article reviews theories of child faith development, and models of child spirituality from different disciplinary perspectives. It provides sources illustrating how spirituality and religion may inform children's lives; play a part in children's moral formation, socialization, and induction into a sacred worldview; and provide the child with inner resources. It also suggests some of the positive and negative effects of spiritual and religious engagement. Second, this article examines aspects of spirituality and religion that parents may bring to bear in relation to their children's health. Third, this article addresses the spiritual and/or religious identity of the provider. These topics are discussed in the context of cultural competence and the related importance of religious diversity. The authors suggest 1) some approaches for appropriate inclusion of spirituality in clinical practice, 2) challenges for medical education, and 3) areas requiring further research.

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology
  • Child
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Parents
  • Pediatrics* / education
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • United States