Cover image for The spiritual life of children
The spiritual life of children
Coles, Robert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
Physical Description:
xix, 358 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : color illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Peter Davison book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL625.5 .C64 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



For 30 years Robert Coles has been talking and listening to children all over the world and recording their responses to crises, to hardship and sorrow and to moral and political pressure. In this one of eight volumes in his Pulitzer Prize-winning series, Children of Crisis, he speaks to and for the religious and spiritual lives of children, conveying their views of salvation and righteousness, their experience of God and their ways of understanding the ultimate meaning of their own lives.

Author Notes

Boston-born psychiatrist and author Robert Martin Coles devoted his professional life to the psychology of children. Coles has been associated with the Harvard University Medical School since 1960.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his five-volume series entitled Children in Crisis, Coles has contributed hundreds of articles to popular magazines, as well as writing over thirty books for adults and children. Other books include The Mind's Fate, Flannery O'Connor's South, and Walker Percy: An American Search.

(Bowker Author Biography) Robert Coles is a professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at the Harvard Medical school and a research psychiatrist for the Harvard University Health Services. His many books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning five-volume Children of Crisis and the bestselling The Moral Intelligence of Children. He is also the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard. He lives in Massachusetts.

(Publisher Provided) Robert Coles is a professor of psychiatry & medical humanities at the Harvard Medical School, a research psychiatrist for the Harvard University Health Services, & the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard College. His many books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Children of Crisis" series as well as the best-selling "The Spiritual Life of Children" & "The Moral Intelligence of Children". Dr. Coles is a founding editor of the award-winning magazine "DoubleTake".

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Coles continues in the vein of his wonderful series of books (e.g., the five-volume set Children of Crisis) with this well-written and compelling look at the way children think and talk about God. Cole's evidence comes not from the sterile classroom or research lab, but from children all over the world, whose candid conversations helped illuminate an often overlooked part of their lives. Cole first discusses the uneasy relationship between psychoanalysis and religion and then moves to a presentation of his method. The rest of the book is devoted to the children. While the primary religions represented are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Cole does not ignore the soul-searching of those who do not profess any particular faith or of those who belong to different religious traditions. An excellent book for those who want to know more about children and the development of faith. References; to be indexed. ~--Mary Deeley

Publisher's Weekly Review

With his Children of Crisis series, begun nearly 30 years ago, and later studies about children's moral and political lives, Coles, child psychiatrist, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and Harvard professor, has taught a generation of adults how to listen to--and learn from--children. In this final volume of his work with children, Coles again relies on psychoanalytic observation, unintrusive questioning and meetings stretching over months and years, as he interviews, among others, Hopi children in the Southwest, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish children in the Boston area, Pakistani children in London and Christian children in Tennessee about what God means to them and how God fits in their lives. Often adding to their words with drawings (16 are reproduced here), the children, most around the age of 10, respond with fervency and depth that confirm Coles's close, respectful attention. There are no answers on these pages; only the children, vividly, eloquently present; Coles himself, who, declaring his own secular inclinations, fills out their responses, along with his to them; and the conclusion that intense considerations about the purpose of life and the nature of God occupy all of us, at every age--perhaps never so directly than as children. Author tour. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Pulitzer prize-winning Harvard child psychiatrist Coles, a social scientist and prolific writer of books dealing with children's perceptions of poverty, moral and political stress, and crisis, shares his research regarding children's understanding of and reflections on spiritual matters. Inspired by his psychoanalytic training and a conversation with Anna Freud, Coles interviewed in-depth over 500 Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and agnostic children, ages eight to 12, living in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. What Cole delivers, in between thoughtful but nonjargonistic explanations of children's remarks and art work, are detailed, fascinating conversations between an expert interviewer and children struggling to understand God and the contradictions of their religious teachings. Recommended for larger public and college library collections and church/synagogue libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/90.--Janice Arenofsky, formerly with Arizona State Lib., Phoenix (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Once again, noted psychiatrist Coles has produced a best seller (on The New York Times nonfiction best seller list for eight weeks) about children and their thinking and feeling. Using the power of storytelling and the research he has gathered across the US and from other countries, Coles makes his presentation in narrative fashion rather than in an abstract theoretical manner. He dramatically reveals the themes of children's accounts of their religious and spiritual experiences, grouping the stories into psychological, philosophical, and visionary (leaps of faith) trends. In discussing these themes he also considers other development factors, such as age, social background, sex, nationality, and race. The popularity of this book stems from its storytelling style, the drawings, and the fundamental concern for what children think and feel about the spiritual world, perhaps as a reflection of an adult's own concern about these issues. For anyone with a sincere interest in understanding children. Community college level and up. -E. Pearson, Marywood College