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Catholic school students pray the rosary at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Wichita, Kan., Oct. 11, 2006. About 60 percent of the parishioners at the church are Hispanic resulting in more Spanish Masses and other services geared to an immigrant population. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A recent study by the University of California, Santa Barbara has shown that Catholic students have better self-discipline.

The finding, made by Associate Professor Michael Gottfried and doctoral student Jacob Kirksey, reveals that Catholic schools are better at instilling traits of self-discipline in their students than U.S. public schools and other private schools.

Their study focused on answering two pertinent questions: Are children in Catholic elementary schools more self-disciplined than students in other schools, in terms of engaging in verbal and physical confrontations, as well as their temper control? Also, is the relationship between Catholic school attendance and self-discipline stronger in certain subsets of students?

Analysis of national representative data collected by two Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies conducted in 1999 and 2011, examining child development, school readiness and early school experiences, uncovered three findings: Students in Catholic schools are less likely to engage in disruptive behavior than their peers in other schools; students in Catholic schools displayed greater self-control than other students; and finally, regardless of demographics, students in Catholic schools showed greater self-discipline that students in other private schools.

The data of the finding was drawn from two cohorts, comprising 15,000 to 17,000 kindergarteners who attended public schools and 1,000 – 2,000 who attended private schools, of which close to 50 per cent attended a Catholic school.


The authors of the research who attempted to construct a plausible control group, accounted for the fact that parents often made a conscious decision to send their children to Catholic schools and therefore, there may be unobservable differences between Catholic and other private school students which could bias the study.

Despite this, the authors felt confident enough to come to several conclusions.

“Since Catholic school doctrine emphasizes the development of self-discipline, it seems likely that Catholic schools devote more time and attention to fostering it,” they wrote.

“If other schools took self-discipline as seriously as Catholic schools do, they would likely have to spend less time, energy and political capital on penalizing students for negative behaviors.”

“The most obvious feature that Catholic schools and similar faith-based schools have in common is their focus on religion — including such specifically Judeo-Christian values as humility, obedience, kindness, tolerance, self-sacrifice and perseverance,” the authors added.

By Ololade Olatimehin

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