Magical beliefs and rituals in young children

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2002 Fall;33(1):43-58. doi: 10.1023/a:1016516205827.


Thirty-one children were administered a structured interview that assessed their beliefs about magic, tricks and wishes. Children were also presented with demonstrations of magic tricks/illusions, and asked to offer explanations as to how they worked. Parents completed the Childhood Routines Inventory (CRI), a 19-item parent report measure that assesses children's rituals, habits and sensory-perceptual experiences that we have termed "compulsive-like" behavior. Results indicated that children's rituals and compulsions were positively related to their magical beliefs, and inversely related to their uses of concrete, physical explanations to describe various phenomena. In particular, children's beliefs about the effects of wishing were most consistently correlated with their compulsive-like rituals and routines. The findings extended the work on magical beliefs and obsessive-compulsive phenomena to the normative manifestation of compulsive behaviors found in typical development.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / epidemiology*