The Internalization of Jewish Values by Children Attending Orthodox Jewish Schools, and its Relationship to Autonomy-Supportive Parenting and Adjustment

Published: 
Oct. 01, 2009

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 75, Issue 4, pages 350 - 363 

 

The present study examined the way in which children attending Orthodox Jewish schools internalize the value of both their Jewish studies and secular studies, as well as the value of Jewish cultural practices. A distinction was made between identified internalization, where children perceive Jewish studies and Jewish culture to be an important part of their sense of self, and introjected internalization, where children participate in Jewish studies and Jewish culture because they feel like they “ought to” or because of external pressures. Primary identified reasons for their Jewish studies and Jewish cultural practices were significantly associated with positive self and teacher ratings of adjustment; internalization of secular studies was unrelated to adjustment. The study also found that parental support of autonomy, which involves allowing children some latitude in making decisions for themselves regarding religious issues, was associated with greater identification. Together, these results highlight the importance of autonomy-supportive parenting in promoting identification of adolescents' Jewish identity.

 

METHOD

Participants and Procedure

Participants were 30 seventh and eighth grade students from a strictly Orthodox girl's school and 13 participants (9 girls and 4 boys) from a modern Orthodox coeducational school. Of the total population, 32 (74.4%) identified as Orthodox, 6 (14%) as Conservative, 2 (4.7%) as Reform, and one each (2.3%) as Reconstructionist and unaffiliated/secular. Participation was on a voluntary basis and required parental consent. Students were gathered in a classroom at lunchtime and asked to fill out the questionnaires. Each signed a coded consent form. The code from the consent form was transferred to the questionnaire, and the questionnaires and consent forms were kept separate in order to maintain student anonymity. The questionnaires took approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. The researcher was available to answer any questions and offer clarifications The codes and names from the consent forms were then transferred to teacher rating forms for each student. The teachers answered the questionnaires on their own time.

 

DISCUSSION

 

The present study examined the way in which children attending Orthodox Jewish schools internalize the value of both their Jewish and secular studies and the importance of Jewish cultural practices. It was found that students reported primarily identified reasons for their Jewish studies and that such reasons were significantly associated with healthy adjustment as indicated in teacher ratings and self-reports. The way in which students internalized the value of secular studies was not related to teacher ratings or well being. Additionally, identification with Jewish cultural practices was also related to better self-concept, although not to teacher ratings. The study also found that perceived parental support of autonomy regarding religious and identity issues (e.g., by listening and taking the child's perspective) was associated with greater identification. Together, these results highlight the importance of promoting identification in the way in which Jewish youth internalize their cultural beliefs.

Updated: Dec. 14, 2009
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