Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The God of the Child: A Qualitative Phenomenological Study Investigating God-Concept and God-Image in Children with Adverse Childhood Experiences Who Have Received Post-adoptive Support through a Faith-Based Agency
by Zimmerman, Esther L., Ph.D., Lancaster Bible College, 2019, 309; 27737090
Abstract (Summary)

Christian parents and ministry leaders working with children who have Adverse Childhood Experiences desire to help them develop and deepen a relationship with the God of the Bible. However, to join children on their spiritual journey, parents and ministry leaders must first seek to understand the children’s existing understanding and experience of God. The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to investigate God-concept and God-image in children with ACEs who have received post-adoptive support through Bethany, a faith-based agency.

Through a series of creative listening activities, this study explored adopted children’s understanding and experience of God—in particular, his sovereignty, love, and righteousness. It then compared children’s ideas about God (God-concept) with their feelings about God (God-image). Finally, the study compared children’s God-concept and God-image with biblical teaching about God’s sovereignty, love, and righteousness.

Previous research suggested that children form their God-concept and God-image over time as they interact with trusted people, encounter formal teaching, and seek to make meaning out of their life experiences. This was true of the 8–12 year old children in this study who approached the questions of life as young philosophers and drew on many sources to construct very personal pictures of God.

These adopted children strongly affirmed God’s sovereignty and love. However, many were struggling with aspects of God’s righteousness—Is God good? Is he fair? Does he ever make mistakes? The children were aware of this tension and were actively seeking to reconcile their beliefs about God with their experience of life.

The research findings suggest that at this stage in children’s development, adoption and Adverse Childhood Experiences do not necessarily result in a negative view of God. However, further research is needed to explore how these children’s God-concept and God-image will continue to be shaped as they enter their teenage years and navigate new developmental stages.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gushiken, Kevin
Commitee: Stonehouse, Catherine
School: Lancaster Bible College
Department: Leadership Studies
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Spirituality, Religious education, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Adoption, Adverse childhood experiences, Children, God-concept, God-image, Spirituality
Publication Number: 27737090
ISBN: 9781392486207
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