Universität Bielefeld

© Universität Bielefeld

Religious children’s drawings

Empirical research which use children’s drawings to analyze their religious representations of children are not only rare, but unsatisfactory in their research design because they are based on drawings as final products only. The final products only scarcely yield inferences in the drawing process. Also, in most research projects in the literature, a somewhat narrow developmental perspective is dominant, focusing on the contrast between the anthropomorphic vs. symbolic character of the God representation.

Therefore, we explored new ways which rest on the perspective on children as subjects of their own religious world and their religious development. Key questions therefore are: Which insights into the child’s subjective creative competencies in dealing with and expressing religious representations can be gained from an analysis of the process of drawing or painting religious contents.

In her dissertation project Manuela Wiedmaier continued the line of research that started in the pilot project. She videodocumented the drawing processes of children in a larger sample of primary school children. Two or three boys or girls have met in a drawing session with the (participant observation) researcher. The drawing groups were girls only or boys only; the children were friends spending time together playing; the drawing session took place in their free time outside the school. In the second meeting, the children were asked to draw a picture of God. This way more than 25 drawing sessions could be video-taped.

The focus of research interest were the drawing processes and not the completed pictures. The dynamics of the drawing process, including changes, corrections or new beginnings, could be analyzed detail by detail in a sequence analytical evaluation process. Of interest was also the interaction between the children, because the inclusion and appropriation of associated fragments of religious images and beliefs, of religious questions and experiences does not take place in isolation, but in communication between the children – which is sometimes mutually inspiring, sometimes competitive, alternating between cooperation and argument. Theories of self socialization in peer groups have opened a perspective on the formation process which takes place in the drawing process.

The project has been completed in July 2006 with Manuela Wiedmaier’s doctoral examination. Her research has been published in a book:

Wiedmaier, M. (2008). Wenn sich Mädchen und Jungen Gott und die Welt ausmalen. Feinanalysen filmisch dokumentierter Malprozesse. Wahrnehmende Theologie. Studien zur Erfahrung und religiösen Lebenswelt, Bd. 3, Münster: Lit Verlag.

Wiedmaier, M. (2008). Wenn sich Mädchen und Jungen Gott und die Welt ausmalen. Feinanalysen filmisch dokumentierter Malprozesse. Wahrnehmende Theologie. Studien zur Erfahrung und religiösen Lebenswelt, Bd. 3, Münster: Lit Verlag.