Children Speak: Catholic Second Graders' Agency and Experiences in the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2011


Arts and Humanities | Catholic Studies | Christianity | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Joining a growing number of childhood studies scholars who stress the need to engage in child-centered research and learn about children's religious experiences from children themselves, I have conducted a qualitative research study that explores how second graders interpret their experiences of a particular religious ritual—the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This article analyzes 73 interviews of Catholic second graders about their experiences of this sacrament, its various meanings, and its moral and spiritual effects. A key contribution of this research is the identification of a strong association between children's perceived sense of agency (or lack thereof) and (1) their affective and attitudinal response, (2) whether the sacrament is personally meaningful, and (3) its impact on their relationship with God and others.


DOI: 10.1093/socrel/srr002