Students in Catholic schools are more self-disciplined than students in public and private schools, a new report finds.
The study, commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, compared children who attended Catholic schools with similar students enrolled in both public and other private schools.
The study includes three key findings:
- Students in Catholic schools are less likely to act out or be disruptive than those in other private or public schools.
- Students in Catholic schools show more self-control than those in other public and private schools.
- Regardless of demographics, students in Catholic schools show more self-discipline than students in both public and other private schools.
Michael Gottfried and Jacob Kirksey of the University of California-Santa Barbara analyzed two waves of nationally representative data on elementary school students collected as part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Kindergarten. The data include surveys of teachers, parents and students.
The researchers compared Catholic school students to peers with similar characteristics in other types of schools. But the researchers note that because Catholic-school parents choose to send their children to those schools, there might be other differences that don’t show up in the data. As a result, they can’t say for sure whether Catholic schools caused the differences in student behavior.
According to the teacher surveys, Catholic-school students less frequently argued, got angry, and acted impulsively.
In their foreword to the new report, Fordham’s Michael Petrilli and Amber Northern find three key takeaways:
- Schools that focus on self-discipline will do a better job of fostering it in children.
- Assuming Catholic schools do indeed increase children’s self-control, other schools can learn from them when it comes to fostering self-discipline.
- Religion can positively influence a child’s behavior. The study notes even secular schools can still adopt programs that teach self-discipline.
They say the results suggest attending Catholic school may help foster self-control in students from all kinds of demographic and religious backgrounds.